Autumn Leaves (Oct. 2019)

Seresin Estate, Marlborough, Noa, Pinot Noir, 2013

This is just about the most high end New Zealand Pinot Noir I've had yet, so I have little basis for comparison. A couple of years back, I had a cool vintage Marsannay from a cold village vineyard and that's the closest comparison I can make, although the texture is fatter than a Bourgogne - not bigger or riper or more muscular, just a little thicker and juicier. The nose is herbal to the point of making me uncomfortable at first, although the palate is solid and full, with very clear and clean fruit. And it needs time to unwrap, and, as it does, it shows raw fruit flavors somewhat tempered by saline, savory notes. Meanwhile, the aromas shed that herbal tint and become much more nuanced and appealing, more in the vein of forest floor and leaves, as well as some violets. Those violets grow stronger - a wonderfully good sign for a wine that will easily glide towards its tenth and fifteenth birthdays. (Oct. 17, 2019)

About 40 GBP.

Pelter, T-Selection, Riesling, 2018

So few attempt to make a Riesling in Israel, that anyone brave enough will by default produce one of the best ten local Rieslings. So, welcome to the club, Tal Pelter. It's a pretty good first effort and joking aside, comparing local Rieslings is tricky, and here's why.

I think there are two basic styles of quality Rieslings. You have the lithe, filigree Rieslings of the great German vineyards, that are almost ethereal and where the trick is to pack as many flavors without losing that airy body and silky texture. Of course, as you go up the pradikat hierarchy, the increase in sugar makes the wines more unctuous, but the starting point is that litheness. 

On the other hand, you have your dry Austrians, Alsatians, Australians, even your German Grosses Gewaches, where the texture is rougher, the body bigger and bolder, and of course, they're bone dry. There, the point is how much flavors can you pack before the fruit, acidity and alcohol get out of hand and start careening around your taste buds.

Israeli wines don't have the substance of the latter and while they're lithe and agile in form, they don't usually have the same class as the Germans. Let's face it, they offer less flavors and complexity than the best of either, be it due to climate, terroir or simply because we haven't been growing Rieslings for very long and (I assume) the vines are fairly young. When that's the starting point, the differences between the members of the top class of Israeli Rieslings are often a matter of a few inches, really, mostly whether the grower and winemaker managed to coax a few more flavors out of his grapes that year. So I would say the Pelter has a very good, even pretty form, good balance between sugar and acidity, a typical flavor profile and green apples with maybe just a touch of petrol, but less complexity and intensity of flavors than, say, Sphera or Vitkin. (Oct. 4, 2019)

Reinhold Haart, Mosel, Wintricher Ohligsberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

If you want to know what a fine, filigree Riesling from a great Mosel site is like, the Haart Ohligsberg is just about as fine as you can get, a textbook example of Mosel in the prime of early maturity, in fact. The granny apples, which accompany a Mosel until the very end of its life, are wrapped in a fine veil of herbs and minerals, which create a cool expression of what we call icy slate for shorthand. The sweetness has not yet started to fade, even though the acidity keeps the wine lively and racy, and the finish lingers with sweet and slightly salty flavors. (Oct. 9, 2019)

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

This isn't exactly dry, but it feels that way. It not only balances the sugar and acidity so deftly that the chemistry becomes alchemistry, the nose is absolutely stunning in the complex way it offers up aromas of apples, mint and sea salt. The flavor set is just as beguiling, although of a hardier character than the Haart. If you even dared think Mosels are all of a kind, here are two wines that would politely show you the errors of your ways. (Oct. 12, 2019)

Rey Fernando de Castilla, Jerez, Palo Cortado "Antique"

If you love sherry, few wines will be as magical as a great Palo Cortado. If you speak its language, few will be as poetic as the Castilla "Antique". Imagine a wine that reduces the aromas and flavors of a pecan, caramel and chocolate pie to a wonderfully savory and complex umami, totally dry, with weightless depth. Well, not totally weightless. The reason the Antique is so finely balanced is that the fruit has retained enough body after all the years in the solera to balance the intensely salty flavors with a suggestion of sweetness, even acidity. At the same time, the fruit flavors are still fresh enough to accompany the umami flavors with suggestions of lime, apples, even grapes. (Oct. 10, 2019)

Chateau Golan, Syrah, 2017

The North Rhone is a template for Syrah throughout the world. With classic appellations that define the grape and its various styles, the North Rhone has been setting the bar for decades: supple fruit with black pepper aromas throughout, bacon and violets an option, tannins ranging from brawny and muscular to lithe and athletic - life defining experiences to life affirming bistro wines. 

What Chateau Golan, like many Israeli Syrahs, has taken from the paradigm are the basics. The supple fruit, married to the sweet warmth of Israel, which really isn't that far removed, today, from a warm vintage in the Rhone. The black pepper and a hint of violets. I like how this wine works. I like the direct, but not overdone, fruitiness that has been Uri Hetz' trademark with his Syrah for years, although at first, the fruit overshadows the tannins (they're there, but they need some time to show - I just told you they were overshadowed). Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever drunk a tannic Israeli Syrah. Maybe in Israel,  the grape never reaches a balancing point where the tannins are prominent. (Oct. 19, 2019)

Shvo, Syrah, 2015

Actually, I did drink a tannic Israeli Syrah: the 2014 Shvo was an odd mix of ripe fruit and bitter tannins. This works better, despite 2015 being a much more challenging year than 2014. While the tannins are astringent enough to require cellaring, they make for a dusty effect, rather than a bitter one. The charry, peppery aromas need time to gel, while the acidity initially bruises in a way that the regular Shvo red would never contemplate doing. (Oct. 29, 2019)

Le Domaine d'Henri, Chablis Premier Cru, Troesmes, 2014

This isn't the domaine's most expensive wine, and Troesmes is not nearly as famous a vineyard as Fourchaume, from which d'Henri source many wines, including their most expensive cuvee. What distinguishes it most of all is a crystalline purity of fruit you'd be happy to find in Puligny - Chablis has many charms, but this kind of purity isn't the first to come to my mind. The more typical marine elements of Chablis are subtly integrated here and makes for ethereal poise. A beautiful wine. (Oct. 20, 2019)

Christophe Mignon, Champagne Extra Brut, Pur Meunier, 2013

Not the most elegant or complex vintage Champagne, but a very fresh and tasty one, a broth of chalk and mushrooms enveloping  juicy, racy fruit - granny apples picked right of the tree. My problem is that, like the non-vintage, the acidity and ripeness don't really gel, and I wonder whether that's really the basic character of Pinot Meunier. (Oct. 30, 2019)