Spain and Europe (Dec. 2019)

Verónica Ortega, Bierzo, Cobrana, 2017

This was my wine of the night when Eldad Levy showed off his Spanish portfolio a few months ago, for the way the aromas and flavors coiled around themselves like a Mobius strip. It's less impressive now, for whatever reason (bottle variation, 'dumb' period, phase of the moon), and instead of flaunting its eccentricity like the previous bottle did, it delivers its earthy flavors on a thin sliver of black tea tannins and fine acidity. (Dec. 5, 2019)

Verónica Ortega, Bierzo, CAL, 2017

I love German Rieslings and Burgundian whites. Sometimes I feel I could dedicate my life - and liver - to them alone. And then I run into a wine like this, with its bouquet of sunburned rocks and salt mines and peaches, its flavors of peaches, peach pits, quinine and salt carried on a backbone of fine acidity, and I want to make my wine world as wide as possible. (Dec. 9, 2019)

Zarate, Rías Baixas, Albariño, El Palomar, 2017

This is still young (I've found the Palomar to need three years to start hitting its stride and I was tempting fate here with my curiosity), but it already shows, as do the best of Anselmo Mendes in Vinho Verde, that Albariño has the potential to break any preconceived glass ceiling.  The secret here is a classically shaped form infused with chalk and wet rock. (Dec. 18, 2019)

R. López de Heredia, Rioja, Reserva, Viña Bosconia, 2007

Generally speaking, I prefer the Bosconia Reserva to the Tondonia Reserva. It's more finessed, the acidity brighter, the tannins less dusty, at least in the early years. And it's somewhat cheaper, too, as the Tondonia is so synonymous with Heredia that it commands a higher price. It's a classic Rioja, with a frame reminiscent of Burgundy, the nose showing red fruit and iron fillings, while the palate has a savoriness akin to balsamic vinegar. 

Every single wine Heredia makes would legally qualify as a Gran Reserva in every respect (grape quality and barrel aging), so if, drinking this, you get a wild urge to cellar it for another ten years, go for it. (Dec. 7, 2019)

The thing with old school Riojas is that even if you're a fan of the style, not all old school Riojas are created equal. To wit...

Bodegas Bilbainas, Viña Pomal, Rioja Gran Reserva, Viña Pomal, 2011

Even though the oak is obvious, it's obviously an old school Gran Reserva designed for drinking on release - it's approachable if you like oaky Riojas. It smells of dark cherries, smoke and earthy herbs and the tannins are soft enough for comfort but drying and chunky so maybe you should age it for a few more years. (Dec. 25, 2019)

Israco, 169 NIS.

Château Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois, 2012

Sociando-Mallet is one of the last bastions of affordable household name Bordeaux, and what’s more, it has retained old world values of savory, earthy, rust laden black currants with just enough hygiene to avoid brett. The 2012 highlights these traits, which made Sociando one of the first Bordeaux to capture my heart a decade ago. It’s surprisingly drinkable but I’m sure it will age (by combination of very succulent acidity, a tannic structure yet to truly soften, balanced alcohol and track record). (Dec. 15, 2019)

Half a dozen its the senior, the Château Sociando-Mallet, 2006 is not significantly much more advanced, but the style and DNA are impossible to overlook. (Jan. 17, 2020)

Castello di Verduno, Barbaresco, 2015

I don't mind the roughness of young Barolos and Barbarescos. I even enjoy their tannic crunch as long as they're expressive enough. Or even if they're only faking being expressive. Buy I just hate it when they're so closed that they're totally devoid of expression. Which is the case here. For the first hour or so it showed the kind of medicinal aroma that worries you the bottle is spoiled. Then that sort of goes away and is replaced by aromas of black tea and dried rose petals, but the effect of the bouquet is diminutive and it's not very expressive. The palate, too, is mute. I basically had to wait over four hours to start to enjoy it. You get the picture. My other bottle will wait a few years. (Dec. 20, 2019)

Terre da Vino, Barbaresco, La Casa in Collina, 2015

A previous bottle was very mediocre, if I'm being charitable, but this is very nice: red cherries, rose petals and hints of truffles, tannins that are rich in iron yet supple at the same time, a very long finish. (Jan. 15, 2020)

Wine Route, usually 180 NIS, 100 NIS at the semi-annual Grand Sale. 

Hakerem, 189 NIS.

Paternoster, Aglianico del Vulture, Don Anselmo, 2013

I suspected I should have waited but it's been a long while since I'd drunk any vintage of this wine. Thirteen years, in fact. It's still in a very unsubtle, almost inscrutable phase, hinting at dark fruit, earth and leather, all tightly wound up. As it unwinds aromatically, it gives off notes of tar, which are a reminder why Aglianico is sometimes called the Nebbiolo of the south. The palate is slower to open. Age it like a Barolo. (Dec. 28, 2019)