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.