September Songs (Sept. 2018)

Mostly Burgundy and top flight Israelis this month. And a white Portuguese - the whites of Portugal need to be on your shopping lists!

Niepoort, Duoro, Dialogo Branco, 2017

We had spent a week in Portugal and drank a Duoro white almost every day. Usually 10 euro stuff, which translates to sub 100 NIS wines in Israel (which is more or less what this should cost). Without exception, they were very balanced and tautly shaped, ripe without excess and all ingrained with a fine mineral character, salty a la Chablis. I'm just going to recommend you try whatever is available until you find your house white. The Diaologo is a good starting point. (Sept. 30, 2018)

Rapet Père et Fils, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2015

This is a wine I've adored through three vintages, 2011 through 2013. I'm keeping the 2014 because it's such a sharp, focused vintage - a marathon lady - but 2015, well, it looks like the kind of vintage that flatters the reds and turns the whites into hussies. (Sept. 10, 2018)

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, St. Joseph, 2014

This is my first encounter with the Chave estate St. Joseph, and, off year or not, it's a beautiful wine. One of the things I love most about North Rhone Syrah is the combination of black/blue fruit, flowers, pepper and bacon that evoke an almost feral wildness, even in the most elegant wines. I find all that here, especially the bacon. What I like less is how the acidity and plump fruit don't mesh very well on the palate, obscuring the savoriness that only emerges after three hours, but the density, structure and depth remind so much of a good Cote Rotie that I would wager on cellar time to resolve this issue. (Sept. 14, 2018)

Wine Route, 200 NIS.

Tzora, Shoresh, 2013

In addition to the usual substantial substratum of minerals (and the Shoresh is always a very mineral-laden wine), there's an echo of flowers in deep center field. (Sept. 2, 2018)

Benoit Ente, Aligote, 2015

Not only do I buy this wine almost every year from Bourgogne Crown, it's the wine I look forward to the most. It doesn't have the body or depth of a Premier Cru, but it does have the flair and excitement of one. What you look for in great white Burgundies is a certain kind of nose where the fruit aromas set the stage for something else, usually minerals. The point is, the fruit is never supposed to be too forward. Actually, nothing should be too forward - the charm of the filigree whites is always in their reserve. The magic here is in the interplay of dry grass and minerals. As far as the palate is concerned, it has an electrifying presence, with a lithe body and terrific, juicy acidity that lends great length to the snaky, salty finish. 

Aligote is a racier grape than Chardonnay, which is, presumably, why the wine feels as though it came from a cooler year than 2015. The quality is a testament to Benoit's winemaking skills, as well as the source of the juice: plots planted in 1949, 1953 and 2002 in Puligny proper. It actually impresses as a wine that could develop for at least five more years. I promise myself to hold on to my next bottle, but I know I won't.

(Sept. 4, 2018)

100 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Bourgogne Blanc, Les Chataigners, 2015

Like the Ente Aligote, this is an overachiever, a declassified village plot, with solid weight and girth. 2015 is a warm vintage, yet this doesn't come off as ripe or fat, just a little bulky.  The vintage is obviously less rewarding for Chardonnay than for a grape like Aligote, which seems to eat up the sun like a performance enhancing drug. Nonetheless, this is in no way ripe, sweet or tropical. If, like me, you enjoy a savory finish to your white Burgundy, you're going to get it here - it's just not going to be very focused. (Sept. 5, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 140 NIS.

Feldstein, Argaman, Appassimento, 2016

Argaman is an Israeli wine grape. It is a crossing of Souzão and Carignan. The intention was to produce a variety of wine grape with good rich color, which had been a problem in Israeli wine. (Wikipedia)

Appassimento: Italian term for drying harvested grapes, traditionally on bamboo racks or straw mats, for a few weeks up to several months to concentrate the sugars and flavors. (Wine Spectator)

Avi Feldstein has long been the proponent of Argaman in Israel, extolling its virtues and potential and producing the first varietal Argaman wines in his days at Barkan. This latest version from his eponymous winery begs the question: if you love the grape so much, why do you think you needed to dry it? Well, he only dried half the grapes that went into this wine and he did it to avoid a longer hang time in the vineyard (meaning, he could have gotten the same concentration in the field, but with some cons he wanted to avoid). The end result is interesting and appealing, achieving a plump, earthy character similar to Israeli Carignan or Marsellan, but with a different texture and set of aromas. (Sept. 8, 2018)

160 NIS.

Feldstein, Rose Carignan, 2017

Feldstein’s roses are another of my annual highlights. They are worthy of anticipation because they show varietal character, intensity and focus without losing the basic character of a good rose: a light body with a smattering of pungency providing structure, winding up in a savory finish. I can’t say they’re the best roses in the world (mainly because I haven't tasted a wide enough range of roses), but they're surely the Platonic ideal of rose. Anyway, the Carignan has an earthy, spicy character with a nose as complex as, say, a good Cote de Nuits village red. Seriously, this is as close to Burgundy as I've ever had in Israel. (Sept. 9, 2017)

The Feldstein, Rose Grenache, 2017 is a lighter wine, and less intense. I prefer the Carignan because it's so winey it exists on a level beyond rose, yet remains a rose. I have less to say about the Grenache rose, alas, but it's always a step more pure and focused than an average good rose, with shadings of flowers and clay. (Sept. 13, 2018)

Rizzi, Barbaresco, Pajoré, 2013

Yaffo Tel Aviv and Eldad Levy imported this bargain house a few years ago at a really low price (that I forgot to write down in Cellar Tracker). This is very pungent, on both palate and nose (but especially on the nose), a blast of red fruit and tar - wild and unruly, yet with a soft, friendly center. A very complete, small scale classic. (Sept. 25, 2018)

Imported by Eyal Mermelstein.

Sphera, White Signature, 2017

This flagship is dominated by Semillon, as I recall, and it's glorious this year, coming off almost like a New Zealand Sauvignon with its fresh gooseberries. The spanner in the works is a fine, pronounced strain of chalk and salt. (Sept. 29, 2018)

About 150 NIS and worth every shekel.