Sunday, January 31, 2010

Domaine Cecile Tremblay (Jan. 27, 2010)

Giaconda's forays into red wine territory over the past year or so are certainly troubling news for anyone with a limited bank account. All the more so with a region as dear to my heart as Burgundy is.

Here's the thing. Right now, my shopping list is as follows:

WineRoute for Bordeaux, Piedmonte, Rhone. Some Burgundy.

BDCH for Champagne.

Tomer Gal for Burgundy.

Giaconda for Riesling, Loire, Alsace, a few Rhone odds and ends, Chablis. And now red Burgundy.

Hence no money for food, electricity, higher education... But we're good for Grand Crus!

What saves my bank account from imploding are the off-vintages and at first I thought this was the case with 2007. If I were to base my purchases of the Tremblay 2007's based on this tasting, I'd give them a thumbs-down. On the other hand, experienced tasters such Alan Meadows as rate them highly, so I would have to guess that I just can't get such young Burgundies, especially so soon after their arrival on these shores. Having said that, my work was cut out for me with the 2006's which are already charming and delicious and utterly Bourgogne. Again, as I don't have the breadth and depth of experience with the 2006 vintage I will not generalize, but from what I have tasted (at this tasting and in previous ones), 2006 seems to have the some of the body of 2002 and 2005 while retaining the characteristics of the so-called 'classic' vintages, such as 2001.

The tasting was hosted by Maly Bar-Natan, who headed the group purchase of the wines, and I have only thanks and praises for the enterprise and logistics. Having said that, the reason Giaconda themselves did not hold such a tasting in-house was that head honcho-women Anat Sella and Rafaella Ronen did not think the 2007's were in a taste-able state.

Vosne-Romanee, Vieilles Vignes, 2007

While this is a fascinating wine - in a way, more so than the much better Premier and Grand Crus to come - it is so harshly austere that I don't know whether I should be patient and give it time or give up and call it a disappointment. The nose is so very Bourgogne with its red cherry fruit and has decent complexity as well as a chalk overlay that would have become a fine Chablis, while on the palate the tannins are raspy and more obvious than the fruit. Then the whole package shuts down even more. If it picks up a little lushness in bottle without losing its quirky minerality, then it would be a precocious Village. 350 NIS.

Morey-Saint-Denis, "Tres Girard", 2007

This is very drinkable even now, yet certainly less complex and less interesting than the Vosne. Both nose and palate are fruitier and somewhat four-squared, while time brings out sweeter aromatics as well forest floor and, to a lesser degree than the Vosne, a pungent whiff of chalk. A pretty (but high maintenance) girl to take out to a party but not for serious loving, sorry. 320 NIS.

Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Feusselottes, 2007

The nose is a step up in richness and ripeness, adding fennel and eastern spices on top of the red fruits we've seen so far. The palate is languid and round with good acidity yet soon loses focus. 500 NIS.

Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2007

This is a Grand Cru and it shows it. The nose is riper, yet more minerally and more focused at the same time. The palate has the length and depth you'd expect from a Grand Cru, yet pales in comparison with the 2006, as will be seen shortly. 840 NIS.

Vosne-Romanee, Vieilles Vignes, 2006

The nose is riper than the 2007, more extroverted while within the boundaries of the Old World asceticism; the palate too is warm and ripe yet no less structured for that. In short, it is everything that's good about the 2007, magnified. I didn't like the price much at first, but I've read that in recent vintages a couple of Vosne-Romanee Premier Crus were blended in for logistical reasons so it's actually a decent price in that respect. 350 NIS.

Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Feusselottes, 2006

A step up in ripeness and complexity once again, the nose showing eastern spices, minerals, animal sweat and smoke. The palate is extremely fulfilling, with sweet, succulent fruit, long and balanced. To put the performance of the 2006's versus the 2007's in perspective, I like this better than the 2007 Chapelle at this point in time. 500 NIS.

Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2006

This, like the 2007's, seems almost too young to abstract, but the greater concentration of fruit that a Grand Cru brings to the table makes it easier to approach, what with that extra more year in bottle helping out. It's monolithic at first as far as aromas and flavors go, although the fine structure is very obvious (finer than the Echezeaux), and it's less muscular than I'd expect a Chambertin Grand Cru to be, although the meatiness is there. The Wine Of The Night out of the Tramblays. 840 NIS.

Echezeaux Grand Cru, 2007

The nose is damn fine, really impressive with smoked meat and a confident burst of minerals. Right now, the palate is a little too sweet and obvious for my tastes and, even though the Charmes-Chambertin was no less opaque, it made a better case for potential complexity than the Echezeaux. 840 NIS.

We also had a few "bonus" whites. We started out with William Fevre, Chablis, 2007, which had a heady, forward mix of flint, fossils and citrus peels. The palate is tasty although unassuming, with a fine acidity that only dissipates on the finish, which I find a little too sweet. Imported by WineRoute, the price is around 100 NIS, if I recall correctly. The William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2006, which we had after the reds, extended the basic fabric of the villages Chablis to a much more, well, grand scale, adding smoke and martzipan to the complex and expressive picture. As the wine was served too cold by a couple of degrees, at the very least, I'll reserve judgement on what I perceived as intrusive oak. Whatever, when WineRoute offered it this summer in six-packs for 190 NIS per bottle, it seemed like the steal of the century and this sneak preview confirmed that, judging by the nose anyway.

It aint' over until the fat lady sings.

Weingut Blees Ferber, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Leiwener Klostergarten. Riesling Eiswein, 2002

God, I love the nose, which is fresh and vibrant, with red and baked apples over a backdrop of frozen slate. The palate is succulent with gorgeous acidity that is so light that the descriptor that comes to mind is cherubic. Without any great complexity, this small-scale artifact from that great wine country is infinitely sniffable and an utter treat to drink.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Slightly South Of the Border - New Importer IsProVinum

The People

Israel is a small country and it's hard not to strike up acquaintances and friendship with various people in the business. Thus, I'm on friendly terms with various people behind the smaller importers, such as Giaconda, Burgundy Wine Collection, Boutique de Champagnes and, now, the new guys on the block, IsProVinum. IPV for short.

I've met Aharon Teller and Uri Kaftori at several wine tastings and they are very entertaining conversationalists over a bottle of wine. Not that I run into too many taciturn wine geeks. So be warned these are people I like, and while it won't make me like their wines a priori, I suppose I will tend to be more patient when I taste.

The Wines

Although IsProVinum export some ciders from Normandy and a couple of expensive Bordeaux, I think the wines most of their customers will be exposed to come from Alsace and Languedoc-Roussillon (the last of which is the topic of this post). Their stated intent is to focus on wines that are ready to drink upon purchase while still offering enough interest to whet the serious wine geek's curiosity.

This is a compilation of notes on wines I've tasted over the past number of months. There are still a few of the IPV wines I would like to taste, but hanging on to this post would kind of do Aharon and Uri an injustice.

The Notes

Mas de la Deveze, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, Sarabande, 2006

This is the winery's entry-level red (at least, it's the cheapest of their produce that IPV import) and is what I suppose is a typical blend, equal parts Syrah, Carignan and Grenache. The nose leans towards black fruit, with a roasted herbal overlay and a burnt earth essence that makes me think of a mud-brick wall, and as it opens, it turns into a Vacqueyras look-alike. The palate isn't great but very fulfilling in its own context, with a gritty, mineral core and enough acidity to mask it's 14.5 ABV. The alcohol isn't even too obvious as sweetness, which is pretty nifty wine-making for this price level. 75 NIS. (Oct. 29, 2009)

Mas de la Deveze, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, "66", 2006

A step up in price and similar blend, with higher proportions of Grenache (60% to the Syrah's 30 % and the Carignan's 10%). At first, the aromatics are unclear. I can get iodine and minerals, a chocolate-y sweetness, some burnt coal, olive brine, yet the fruit remains buried. The palate is powerful yet unformed, the sweetness more obvious here than in the Sarabande. With time and air, the black fruit and chocolate characteristics of the wine come to the fore. It's a good wine that I'm sure many in Israel will enjoy, but it's too round for my tastes. 125 NIS. (Dec. 12, 2009)

Coume del Mas, Collioure, Schistes, 2007

This wine throws a spanner in the works of anyone trying to illustrate the differences between Old and New World wine-making.

This is just about 100% Grenache and although I am always interested in trying Grenache-based wines, this is a wine I approached with a dollop of worry. Grenache can have a sweet, candied aspect and there is certainly enough of that on the nose, which is a blackberries and plums compote. Any signs of a barrel regime are well hidden, as there is no trace of oak on neither nose nor palate. And, despite the compote aspect, the nose has remarkable freshness and an appealing mineral overlay, both of which are carried on to the palate, which is sweet enough to typify the grape, yet this sweetness is not born of ripe fruit and heavy-handed wine-making but rather appears to come from the grape and the sun. I probably wouldn't drink this on a regular basis, but it makes for a very unique change from my usual drinking habits, especially for the mineral character of the wine, which asserts itself more and more as the Schistes opens in the glass. 155 NIS and I think I'd go for another bottle of this unique wine. (Nov. 21, 2009)

Clos Marie, Coteaux du Langedoc, Pic St. Loup, l’Olivette, 2007

This is a dark colored blend of 40% each of Grenache and Syrah, plus 10% each of Cinsault and Mourvedre, and from the first whiff it reminds me of a young Spanish wine. The nose is closed at first, showing only herbs and and burned earth with vague hints of plums, but air brings the fruit forward without diminishing the secondary aspects, also adding a touch of pepper and iodine. The medium-bodied palate is open from the very start, very fresh with meaty tannins on the finish. It's a modern wine in its clean precision yet the wine-making does not obscure its personality while the acidity and elegance really surprise me, coming from such a southern locale (this is because Pic St. Loup's vineyards are located at a very high altitude). I like it a lot, not least because there's no need to cellar it: it's an excellent wine for the short term although it offers more complexity than I'd expect from such a young wine at this price level. 135 NIS. (Dec. 10, 2009)

Chateau Dor et de Gueules, Costieres de Nimes, Les Cimels, 2005

Here we go again with the details of the blend: 45% Syrah, 30% Carignan, 15% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre aged in cement tanks. I don't know whether I should call this a country wine or just a plain rustic wine, but it's a terrific value. The nose is a study in how ripe the fruit can be and still remain red and has a very nice garrigue and mineral overlay. The palate has grainy, rustic tannins and a mineral finish and absolutely no sweetness or heat. There is a tannic austerity to it such that I'm afraid not everyone would appreciate the style. You kind of have to develop a passion for earth in your wine. Or pair it the right food. But it speaks of its place of origin and sometimes we students of geography have all the fun. 75 NIS. (Dec. 17, 2009)

Chateau Dor et de Gueules, Costieres de Nimes, La Bolida, 2006

Here is a wine whose signatures are aromatics of spicy leather over black fruits that are in no way over-ripe, and a welcome, mineral-tinged austerity over a medium-plus body. A fascinating wine whatever faults and quirks I might pin on it and the most intriguing wine in the IPV catalog I've tasted up to this point; as good as any similarly priced Chateaneuf and suitable for early drinking, thanks to a structure comprised of fresh fruit over soft tannins; that is, a wine in need of air rather than cellar time. 90% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah. 235 NIS. (Jan. 23, 2010)

The Bottom Line

Loved the La Bolida and the l'Olivette. I enjoyed my fling with the Schistes and the Les CImels enough to want another taste. As for the Mas de la Deveze, hey babe, let's just remain friends.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This Is Hip - Jean Paul et Benoit Droin Tasting at Giaconda (Jan. 19, 2010)

Like a lot of my friends, sensible people all, I love Chablis! I own a fair amount of bottles, yet this is the first time I've had five Grand Crus in one sitting. Much thanks to Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen of Giaconda for that.

As the subject of this tasting is the venerable Droin winery, four centuries in Chablis, I suppose I am required to say a few words about the domaine, but I won't, as I'm not very good at that sort of thing. Here instead is a link to the winery's site and you can probably Google the great reviews the wines get. My own two cents is this: the 2007's are lovely wines that won't let you down. 2GrandCru's honor!

Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume, 2006

Something of a disappointment. Whether time and cellaring will change my mind remains to be seen, but let's just say that, with so many great 2007's to choose from, it's a financial no-brainer to pass this by. Having said that, the nose is a knockout, easily blending apples and citrus with a dash of ripe pears and intense notes of flint. Alas, although the nose is just about everything I look for in a white Bourgogne, the palate, while fairly crisp, is rough and laden with oak (having been aged in 50% barrels) and while it will probably soak it all in, the 2007's are so gorgeous straight from bottle, that I will, as I said, walk on by. But my respect for Droin is such that I will probably look back. 171 NIS.

Chablis, 2007

This is where the fun starts. The acidity is so juicy, yet integrated, that it blows me away (and it appears in each of the 2007's), and is well balanced by citrus fruits and a saline finish. How many village wines have a palate that over-shadows the nose? It does usually work the other way around. Anyway, the nose is also a killer for this level of quality, as it weaves an elegant, if monochromatic, tapestry of flint and citrus fruit in a very precious and reserved fashion. This should well be a new house wine for me and is probably the best straight Chablis I've ever tasted. 126 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Cote de Lechet, 2007

As we climb up the quality ladder, these 2007's become more powerful yet more elegant at the same time. This is even more reserved than the village in a way, more subtle, even as the aromatics and palate turn out to be more complex and nuanced, displaying a veil of chalk and sea shells. All the bottles were opened on the spot, thus the Cote de Lechet's easy drinkability makes it very useful, yet there is a bitter, almost tannic sensation on the finish which suggests cellar potential. Lovely. This, like the village, sees no barrels. 171 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Montee de Tonnerre, 2007

There are similarities with the Cote de Lechet, yet they work together almost like counter melodies in the same key. Am I making sense? They do make for difficulties in comparative note-taking, being too similar in their very good-plus level of complexity and in the balance of fruit and mineral, both cut from the same reserved, almost austere, cloth, their differences more a matter of a different note here and there. With its 20% oak seamlessly tucked away, this has the edge in balance, although I'd recommend buying both. 171 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchots, 2007

The introduction of the first Grand Cru territory is not an easy one to adjust to, as a certain femininity about the Blanchots calls for a re-calibration of the palate. It is certainly more closed than previous wines, albeit showing greater aromatic complexity once it opens, with notes of brioche and flowers, the greater ripeness somehow suggesting a warm spring afternoon. This oak-free Grand Cru is very minerally, without a minerally texture per se; Anat Sela called it liquid rock, which nails it so well I just had to plagiarize. 320 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur

This is such a clear break with the previous wines, it's almost a shock as the wine loudly declaims, "look at me, I'm a Grand Cru!" It's a bigger, wider wine, yet never at the cost of elegant or complexity, just as saline as any wine we'd tasted, yet its greater ripeness allows it to support this salinity with gorgeous fruit that complements the acidity with letter-perfect balance. The whole package easily sustains its 50% oak. Highly recommended. 320 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Vaudesir, 2007

If the Valmur was a stylistic break away from the Premier Crus, the Vaudesir takes everything the Premiers had to offer but gives more of the same. Much more. There aromatics present the same mineral core but subtly twist it around creating a whole new picture. The oak here clocks in at 40% but it only shows as brioche on the nose, if at all. The balance of acidity and fruit is, again, gorgeous. Another winner. 320 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Grenouille, 2007

I really don't know quite what to make of this apparent oddball among the other Grand Crus. It's balanced for sure, with plenty of racy acidity, and while I would prefer more minerals, the flowery sweetness of the nose is fine in its own right. But somehow, the whole package is just too round and obsequious and is the least impressive of the lot, including the Fourchaumes. This has the most oak of all the wines of the night (60%) and I can't help but suspect it was there to mask something. 350 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2007

Hats off to the wine that has it all, from nuanced complexity to impressive, mineral-tinged power. Yet, for all its power, it is still delicate, which gives it another notch in my book. Having said that, there is something a bit too straight-forward about it right now, as though it is almost too transparent and clear to read. I still very much recommend it, mind, it just has less mystique than the Valmur right now. 50% oak, 350 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Monte de Milieu, 2004

A surprise addition to the lineup, the nose is a triple "wow" with fruit and minerals embraced by terrific stink that seems like reduction at first, but, as it never blows away and as it melts so well into the rest of the aromatics, I'm quite content with not analyzing it. The fruit is cool and lean at first but fills out nicely. The 2007's seemed to be all about citrus fruit but this leans towards apples. I'd go for it but it's not for sale.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Two Modern Spaniards

The Scottish Company has recently* started importing wines from three small wineries from Spain, owned by the Cusine family. The Pares Balta winery from Penedes dates from 1790 and owns the other two: Dominio Romano from Ribera Del Duero (founded in 2004) and Grata Vinum from Priorat (founded in 2001). They sounded fairly modern to me from the notes published by local writers, yet Spain is just about the only wine country where I can countenance modern trappings and so I thought I'd give the new-comers a try and check out the lower-end wines.

Dominio Romano, Ribera Del Duero, RD, 2006

Modern in style, this is a powerful, if not concentrated, wine with ripe tannins that are balanced by the fruity acidity you'd expect from Tempranillo. Elsewhere, it's not easy to find any obvious signs of Spain or Tempranillo. The nose doesn't really belong anywhere in particular (I'd have guessed Australia blind) even as it reveals black cherries and chocolate with spicy, meaty, even saline, overtones. While I prefer a rawer style from the warm lands, I like this wine; despite the lack of typicity, it is a good wine and its fruitiness will make it a crowd-pleaser, while its inherent balance will also ensure that the more discerning wine lovers will also find interest in it. (Jan. 9, 2010)

About 150 NIS

Grata Vinum, Priorat, 2πR, 2006

The problem most detractors of modern Priorat have with the style is, I think, a single minded monolithism. This is not the case here, thankfully; while this wine here is not exactly my cuppa, it is a nice distraction from my usual routine, and, not being the winery's flagship wine, extreme tendencies are rather reined in (unless I'm biased in assuming a modern flagship wine necessarily goes overboard with certain things like fruit extraction). The nose is ripe, not over-extracted, the fruit on the borderline between black and red, with subtly smoky/minerally notes. The palate has a grainy mouthfeel which contrasts with the ripeness of the fruit, and, while the acidity is nothing to write home about, it does leave an impression on the finish and somehow there is enough structure to anchor the languid, hedonistic personality. Coming in, I was biased to prefer the Ribera but this turned out to be my favorite and believe me it was a pleasant surprise. I'd buy again and drink over the next five years. (Jan. 16, 2010).

Read about the winery here.

About 160 NIS.

* "Recently" my foot. I'm so out of touch, I seem to pick up on these things a few months after the fact.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Misc Notes (Dec. 2009)

A. Et P. Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise, La Digoine, 2006

I wasn't going to open any more of these for a while, but I found a cache of 2006 leftovers in the Tel-Aviv branch of Hinawi so I can afford to open a bottle now for, uh, educational purposes. For me, this is the perfect house Bourgogne, as I prefer wines that build up body and presence with time and air - such as this one does - as opposed to wines that start big and mellow out. The nose has gorgeous red fruit, with a hint of black cherries, earthy and meaty notes and those quintessential exotic spices that are present to a lesser or fuller degree throughout Burgundy. Very elegant. The palate is delicate yet assertive even if a previous bottle had greater focus. Right now the tannins, fine as they are, overshadow the fruit, but they leave a pungent impression on the palate that I adore and there is enough balance to keep me faithful. What can I say, I'm a sucker for this wine. (Dec. 3, 2009)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 130-140 NIS.

A. Et. P. Villaine, Bouzeron, 2007

This is always a light wine, but in this vintage it seems a bit lighter than usual, which is a good thing because I think that why it's readier than usual, the mineral cut on the palate already in harmony with the citrus-y acidity. Other than that, there's lime and chalk on the nose and a bit of green grass and some toasted bread, although the last is not oaky toast - maybe it's terroir as I always spot it once this wine hits its stride. Anyway, a lovely little wine, and 2GrandCru doesn't use "little" as a calumnious descriptor. (Dec. 9, 2009)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 80 NIS.

Bott-Geyl, Gewurztraminer, les Elements, 2006

Classic Gewurztraminer, from the golden color, to the lychee and spices on the nose, and finally the off-dry juice enveloping a spicy core. Very nice acidity, too! Well balanced and will drink well over the next three-four years.

Imported by IPV, 150 NIS.

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage, Primavera, 2006

This is one of my house wines and once again it delivers the goods, with flavors and aromas of black fruit, pepper, raw meat and a hint of lemon. Deftly balanced for its modest price, with succulent fruit, gorgeous acidity and a saline finish, it has gained focus in the three months since I last crossed its path. Lovely and I would thrive on it over the next two-three years, if I don't devour all my bottles much sooner. (Dec. 18, 2009)

Imported by Giaconda, 110 NIS.

And now, for something completely different...

Domaine du Colombier, Crozes-Hermitage Blanc, Cuvee Gaby, 2007

This is the first white Rhone I've really enjoyed in a long while. The nose reminds me of a Closel Savannieres because the first thing I pick up is a similarly intense and heady mixture of spices and minerals. Then the initial impression disperses, however, as I note a light hint of oxidation against a background of honey and almonds. The palate seems light, almost ephemeral, compared to the nose, and is very refreshing, sleek and graceful by any account. It is very mineral-y, but if the usual suspects in other wines of a mineral-y nature are chalk, slate, flint, then the Cuvee Gaby introduces a rock unknown to me, perhaps a hybrid of granite and calcium. I found the regular Blanc an interesting wine, but not quite fulfilling; this one, however, has jism and is a serious contender. (Dec. 24, 2009)

Giaconda again, 157 NIS.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Mussbacher Eselshaut, Riesling Kabinett, Trocken, 2005

The youthful exuberance here proves my thesis that drinking young German Rieslings is as pleasurable, and as necessary, as drinking mature ones. The palate is driven by a green apple acidity that will mellow over the years, while the nose has sweet dough nuances that I imagine will fade away at the expense of the chalky streak that is already present. I imagine I'd love it as much in a few years, but I don't have the money or space and since these Kabinetts just don't have the fullness and richness of the Spatleses and Ausleses, they're the ones I utilize to enjoy the youthful version of the paradigm. In this case, it helps that the Eselshaut has already started developing hints of petrol. (Dec. 19, 2009)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Perrin et Fils, Gigondas, La Gille, 2006

The nose is almost North Rhone, as it is at first dominated by barnyard and black pepper, which then make some room for a blast of more typical garrigue. The palate does have South Rhone warmth and roundness in its red fruit and, although on the tannic side, it seems to me to be meant for relatively early drinking, for the freshness of the fruit complements the tannic crunch as it leads into a saline finish. I love Gigondas and for my money this is a delightful, minor-key example. (Dec. 25, 2009)

WineRoute, about 150 NIS.

Marques de Riscal, Rioja Reserva, 2004

Only three months have passed since I last posted about this wine and little has changed. So, I'd like to use this space to discuss why this wine makes me uneasy. I don't want to be too harsh with this wine - quite obviously, as my previous note is positive, even fairly loving - but as enjoyable as this young Reserva is, it only hints at the mature Rioja style I love, yet doesn't seem to have the capability to age and fully embody that style. Not that a Reserva should have the same benchmark capacity for cellaring as a Gran Reserva, but the Riscal feels as though it will never age to smooth out its rustic graininess. Maybe I ought to start stocking up on Gran Reservas again. (Dec. 26, 2009)

WineRoute, about 100 NIS on sale.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year's Eve At Amici (Dec. 31, 2009)

Faustino, Rioja, Autor de Faustino, 2001

Faustino's premium cuvee once again impresses me as being caught half way between classical and modern Rioja. Which is not a bad place to be, actually. Despite being raised in French barriques, the nose is very Spanish, if not outright Rioja, lovely in its red fruit and hints of saddle leather. The medium-bodied palate is even better, with good acidity and savoury tannins playing against a raspberry sweetness.

If this is still imported to Israel by the France-Israel Group, then I'll pass, as it's probably as atrociously-priced as in the past. Meanwhile, you can get it at the Heathrow duty-free for about 20 GBP.

Ishmael Arroyo, Ribera Del Duero, Reserva, 2001

This is a blacker wine in every sense of the word, with what comes off at first as barrel-influenced spiciness. At no point, however, is the oak influence very blatant and it soon blows off to show hints of sea salt and leather on the minerally nose. The the nose shifts into fourth gear, thence showing this mixture of cardamon and smoke. Just a fucking gorgeous nose, forward yet graceful with Old World reserve. And the palate is even better; rustier than the Autor, it will never pass off as elegant yet has the grace of a Joe Louis and a fantastic grip and makes a very deep and characterful impression on the taste-buds before it even starts to fade.

Giaconda, 220 NIS.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Georgia On My Mind (Dec. 30, 2009)

Closing out the year was a delightfully delicious display of Georgian (as in Eastern Europe Georgia, ex-USSR Georgia) cuisine, courtesy of Benny Rosen. I do regret not being as adept at writing about food as I am about wine, as this meal truly deserves my best wordplay. I will say it was a unique experience and the wine pairing taxed impromptu sommelier Oron Stern's imagination, knowledge and diplomatic skills to the max. Thanks for effort, Oron and many thanks for the hospitality, Benny.

Billecart-Salmon, Rose Brut, nv

This is not a very complex Champagne and somehow the Pinot character is not very distinct, but that's just about where my criticism runs its course, as this is as fine a non-vintage as I've ever drunk. Well made, tasty and structured and refreshingly crisp. If there's a bedroom in sight, this is the ticket to ride.

Imported by WineRoute, I didn't catch the price but I will shop for it.

My group has rarely drunk white Rhones, let alone a flight. Oron thought the food mandated it. Personally, I'd have dropped the Beaucastel and planned another Pinot Gris to pair with wine number four, especially as the group had the resources for it between us.

Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, Blanc, 2001

Oy oy oy, wha' happened? Is this wine dormant or dead? Oron has another bottle so stay tuned. This has a very interesting mineral aspect but, whether due to style or dumb adolescence, this is one undrinkable bastard.

Imported by WineRoute, this used to cost about 250 NIS some five years ago and I'm not sure whether they still carry it.

Chapoutier, Hermitage, Chante-Allouette, 2001

Like the Beaucastel, this has a very unique personality in a specific, mineral-ly style, yet this is more approachable, alive and vibrant despite the low acidity. Not everyone would like it, but few would fail to be impressed by this very good to excellent wine.

Imported by the Scottish Company, price unknown.

Our group has rarely appreciated a Pinot Gris quite the way we enjoyed the next wine.

Domaines Schlumberger, Grand Cru Kitterle, Le Brise-Mollets, Pinot Gris, 2001

Some wines are so fun to write about because you can peg them with a simple phrase that belies their complexity. The magic words this time are "quince and pepper". Beyond that, this is a very sexy wine. If this was a woman, she'd be all curves and smiles, languid yet firmly built. And she'd smell utterly yummy, with and without perfume.

Not imported, price unknown.

Come to think of it, our group has rarely drunk two Australian wines in one session. 2009 truly rang out with an idiosyncratic bang.

d'Arenberg, Dead Arm, Shiraz, 2001

Here's how it works. It's fine by me if the Aussies are forward, but I like them to jab my face with a left while cocking a right, I don't want a constant whirlpool of hooks. What I'm trying to say is, this wine has composure. It's a ripe wine, but not so ripe that it's all about jammy black fruit and chocolate. Instead, its fruit is actually somewhat redder than, say, a Hermitage - although it does have enough black fruits to fulfill the requirements of the paradigm - with notes of eucalyptus and black pepper and a sweetness that is never cloying. To go by the Dead Arm, as well as the next wine, 2001 was a balanced vintage and these wines whet my appetite for more.

Imported by WineRoute, sold in the days for about 250 NIS. The price has remained more or less constant. For a change!

Tim Adams, Clare Valley, The Aberfeldy, Shiraz, 2001

Like the Dead Arm, this is as complex and as deep a wine as any produced in a classic vintage in the Rhone. It is, however, arguably more complex, better structured and more interesting than the Dead Arm, with a similar fingerprint of eucalyptus and black pepper, fine tannins and great poise.

Not imported, price unknown.

Chateau Nairac, Barsac, 2me Cru Classe, 2001

Polished intensity here, the botrytis endowing the wine with a peppery streak. The relatively high alcohol and low acidity of a high-scoring vintage like 2001 (or 2003) bothers me, but at the same time, the quality of these vintages ensures that a stickie like this will have enough sweet stuffing to counteract such drawbacks. Lovely, all in all.

Imported by WineRoute for about 250 NIS.