Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs

Astrolabe is one of the most worthwhile New Zealand name imported to Israel. Well, Cloudy Bay was just about the first one in, and it's still being imported - at rather cutthroat prices, before Wine Depot took over - but the great thing about the Astrolabe imports is that Astrolabe's single-vineyard wines used to be carried here (and for all I know still are, current importers IBBIS don't seem to target retail consumers in their marketing). The two wines in this post are just the regional Marlborough wines, though. The Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 has a terrific nose that handily balances aromas and flavors of guayavas and other tropical fruit with smoky, salty notes. There's something a little one-dimensional about it, especially on the finish, and I suspect meant to be drunk at a younger age. The nose is really delightful, though.

I don't know what's happened to me -
I'm starting to really like New World style Pinot

The regional Pinot Noir, 2015 is more interesting. When Pinot from a good vineyard is well raised and is not over-extracted, it has a way of clothing its fruity core with nuanced shadings of earth and leaves and spices. The exact combination and subtlety of character will vary - which is why the grape is so beloved for its ability to transcribe terroir - but the mechanism is the same across all the great Pinot vineyards of the world. The Astrolabe does come off as different than Burgundy for sure. I have limited experience with other great Pinot regions, but it also seems different than Russian River Valley Pinots that I have tasted, to cite another famous example. I get forest floor, but it's so wet and packed I don't get the same earthy character I get in Burgundy, I rather get something that feels like black tea. And some cocoa. The aromatic complexity is impressive and complex but the tannins, though not massive, are not very refined - they lend a blocky, sour taste to the finish. Black tea, like I said. The overall character is restrained, but not the restraint of the filigree. Should I just call it the restraint of the ornery? Because it's fruity, for sure, just not overtly fruity or ripe, and it simply does not let you get comfortably inside. whatever, definitely worth a re-purchase.

The only other wine region that produces classic, quality wines for both Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs is Sancerre. Yes.

Domaine Vacheron, imported by Wine Route, is a house I adore. I had a couple of their crus when they first arrived a few years ago and have been waiting for Wine Route to bring in more, content for the time being with the regional wines. 

The Sancerre Rouge, Belle Dame, 2016, sourced from a prime vineyard from 50+ year old vines, is fleshy, ripe and robust, yet tensely delineated. The nose upon opening shows black cherries, cocoa, damp earth. At first, I find more kinship with the Astrolabe than with Burgundy, but it develops nuances of exotic spices and in general becomes more complex, nuanced and detailed, redder as well, halfway between Bourgogne and the New World.  I went back to look at my note for the 2014, drunk at an even younger age, and I really enjoy seeing how much vintage variation this wine shows. The 2016 is Premier Cru level and terrific, a great wine that reaffirms the greatness of Pinot Noir.

Sancerre Blanc, Le Paradis, 2018
This is from a very steep vineyard, with almost no topsoil, 40+ year old vines, the result is the kind of white wine you'd expect from such origins: flinty, salty flavors married to zesty fruit, reflecting a subtly smoky nose of the same character but even greater complexity and nuances. A great example of how well Sauvignon thrives in its Loire homeland.