Monday, May 28, 2012

Hugel Tasting At WineRoute (May 17, 2012)

Go figure. I'm not a huge Alsace fan and I haven't drunk enough of Hugel to form an opinion, yet here I am. See, the importer used to be the France-Israel Group, which had studiously built themselves a reputation for expensively priced, indifferently stored, wines. In fact, they used to periodically sell at discount very mature Hugel SGN's; my peers and I kept a running tally on their condition and half a case in, we never ran across a live one.

But WineRoute has picked up the portfolio and now the prices are reasonable and of course WineRoute have a great reputation for impeccable storage, so things are are peachy. When they advertised a tasting of young and old Hugels, presented by owner Etienne Hugel, I was interested, even though the tasting leaned too much on Gewurtz for my tastes. Uh, I love Gewurztraminer every now and then, the same way I can enjoy ingratiating family once a year, but I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy mature VT's and SGN's - or even young ones, given that they are Gewuztraminers - beyond my personal notion of their intrinsic value as curiosities. In the end, I'm firmly entrenched in the Riesling camp, willing to give Alsace a chance, but sticking to the Teutonic side of the borderlines.

So I've had my annual fling with the lovely slut of the grape world tonight, and we've both agreed to meet again in, say, a year or so. Let's just say I'm still not convinced that Gewurztraminer has it in her to make age-worthy wines, even stickies, and I will elaborate below.

Gentil, 2010

A blend of everything, clean, crisp and light. Lime and minerals. At 59.90 NIS, I'd drink if offered a glass or two, but in no hurry to purchase for myself.



Young and floral, with a saline finish. Very pure, with that Alsatian quinine finish which works very well here. Develops appealing minerality in glass. Surprisingly fine, and I'd buy, if only because I'm sure Efrat would like it. 94.90 NIS.

Jubilee, 2007

100% Schoenenbourg Grand Cru. A light overlay of petrol that doesn't overwhelm the fruit. Additional complexity and presence. A study in minerals. Worthy of the Grand Cru label, even if Hugel doesn't advertise it as such. 199.90 NIS.



Floral. Textbook stuff for current drinking. You can read between the lines of this one-liner that I like, but am not bowled over with excitement. 94.90 NIS.

Jubilee, 2007

100% Grand Cru Sporen. Incredibly floral and at the same time spicier than the classic. Like the 'Classic', this is very nice, but I'm in no hurry to buy 199.90 NIS.

Vendage Tardives, 2007

At first, the nose here is more about Gewurtz than about the nature of VT, whatever that might be. On the palate, great length with the overpowering presence of Gewurtz making this an academic exercise right now. But even as this wine presently (mis)behaves, beneath the sweetness and the Gewurtz spiciness, there is great focus. And with time, the sheer typicity of the nose kicks it into high gear. A second glass proves how balanced this wine is.So I guess this is worth the price of admission for someone with more loose change or a greater symbiotic bond with the variety. 499.90 NIS.

Vendage Tardives, 2005

This too is primary Gewurtz now, and while at first I though this doesn't have the convincing presence of the others in the flight, some patience reveals similar focus. Which is probably the secret of these wines: a sense of laser-like focus to the fruit and a balance of sugar and spice. 499.90 NIS.

Vendage Tardives, 2001

This tempers the Gewurtz with funky maturity. The palate strikes a balance between sweetness and power. A terrific nose, best of the flight. Until the 2007 opened up. 499.90 NIS.

Vendage Tardives, 1990

This now shows great minerality on the nose, yet the palate struggles to contain the spiciness of the Gewurtz. For me, a disappointment, even though I managed to sneak a second glass, which still left me unconvinced, 799.90 NIS.

Selection de Grains Nobles, "S", 2007

And now for the botrytis. There's the mustardy funk of the botrytis and a luscious mouth-feel, but like the VT, it shows the burly youth of nubile Gewurtz. The jury's still out. 599.90 NIS.

Selection de Grains Nobles, 1976

Reeks of age. Good age. Like, ah, the walnuty age of Oloroso, yet with the freshness of nubile youth. Although I must say the palate isn't balanced to my tastes, the spicy kick of the grape not properly balanced by sugar and acidity. A second glass is better, sparking contemplation. It's better balanced but the spices are still jarring. Let's say it pleases my intellect but less so my heart and palate. 899.90 NIS.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Sicilian Tasting (May 7, 2012)

I guess Eldad Levy is not your average importer on the Israeli scene (he has various partners, but he's the front-man for all purposes). First he started importing grower Champagnes, at very reasonable prices, and for a few years he focused on that. Then he started importing white Austrian wines, again at very reasonable prices. And now, he's into Sicilian wines and the crown jewel of this new portfolio hails from the Etna DOCG: Terre Nere.

We started off with more conventional Sicilian wines, conventional in the sense that they come from a terroir more typical of the island - unlike Mt. Etna, which is, well, a mountain.

This is a family winery that Eldad discovered during the same junket that brought him to Terre Nere.

Tasari, Nero d'Avola-Merlot, 2010

85% Nero d'Avola. No barrels. Spicy/earthy red fruit on the nose. The spiciness is echoed on the palate. A pleasant, tasty wine, with juicy acidity. Will make a splendid house wine, like a simple Bourgogne with more body. 69 NIS.

Sachia, Perricone, 2009

Smells totally different. I can't place the aromas. Not for the faint of heart. Gamy? Whatever, very comples aromatically. Ripe, juicy acidity again. A very interesting wine, tasty too, and the only reason it would fail as a house wine is that I don't see the mass appeal, but I like it very much. No barrels here, either. 99 NIS.

Etna Bianco, 2010

Limy with Burgundian (specifically Chablis) mineral accents hovering over a grape of a different breed. Balanced acidity. Lovely. Reminds me somewhat of Muscadet. Probably 100-110 NIS.

Etna Bianco, Cuvee delle Vigne Niche, 2009

Older than the first of course, and a single vineyard - and 100% Carricante. Reductive at first. Spicy, intriguing, hard to fathom. Needs time to reveal whether the purity and depth of fruit I and others thought we'd spotted are really there or just wistful thinking. No price yet.

The 'hype' is that the Terre Nere reds are either the Burgundy of Siciliy or the Barolo of Sicily (as though it wasn't enough that these comparisons had already been made in the past for Aglianico del Vulture). From where I'm sitting, sipping my claret, I've never understood why people lump Burgundy or Barolo together in the first place, except for the recent emphasis on single vineyards. At any rate, I can spot similarities to Pinot, but not really to Nebbiolo.

Etna Rosso, 2010

98% Nerello Mascalese, 2 % Nerello Cappuccio. Promengates and flowers on the nose, which is another nose that's hard to place. Only this time, it's not because the context is as jarring as with, say, the Sachia, but rather because this entry-level red is sullen, earthy and not as obviously friendly as the reds from the west. 110 NIS.

Single-vineyards from hereon.

Etna Rosso, Feudi di Mezzo, 2009

Same blend as above. The nose is friendlier, and very earthy. The acidity is Bourgogne-like, and the body too, but the tannins, although light like a Pinot, have a different feel and taste. How should I put it? If the tannins of a fine Premier Cru is like an ardent lover gently scratching your cheek, here he/she is grazing your back. 210 NIS.

Etna Rosso, Calderara Sottana, 2009

This finally truly lives up to the Burgundy connection and to the buzz about Etna. Red fruit, very flowery and, like some Bourgognes, it expands in glass. Complex with time and even more Burgundian, but a of different personality. Tasty and complex. 210 NIS.

Etna Rosso, Santo Spirito, 2009

The nose is even more more intense, bordering on black fruit. White pepper. Sweeter tannins. Makes an idiosyncratic statement like the previous, an intense, more overtly powerful contrast to the Calderara's femininity. I get the Pinot connection here, too, as there is a sweetness born of purity of fruit. 210 NIS.

Etna Rosso, Guardiola, 2009

The final steppingstone in this little series of single vineyards is the most intense, and mind you, in case you weren't paying attention, I think they're all good. Noble acidity. Coiled in complexity. Loads of potential while still steeped in red fruit. 210 NIS.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Gruaud-Larose, Saint Julien 2me Cru, 1988 (Apr. 28, 2012)

We'll always have Bordeaux!

Efrat and I had this at Cafe 48, and before I proceed further I must say Efrat didn't go for the place as much as I do. I'm not going to change my stance: I love the place, I think the food is yummy and that's my final word. But it tickled my alpha male's testosterones that Efrat thought the wine I brought outclassed the settings.

And what a wine it was. 1988 may not be the most illustrious of the great trio that Bordeaux produced in the late 80's, and Gruaud-Larose may not have the sheen nor the depth of a really great growth - but on this night, this specific bottle illustrated all of Bordeaux strengths: poise, balance and food-friendliness. And what a better appellation to illustrate this than Saint Julien! The nose initially shows earthy red fruit, then with a little air is more about blackcurrants - more Cabernet Sauvignon in character than I'd expect from Saint Julien - complemented by mature claret funk. The palate is even lovelier, with mellow fruit whose sweetness has simmered slowly after two decades in bottle and whose warmth tempers the tannic bite of the finish.

At 108 USD from K&L, this cost just about as much as the bottle of 2008 I picked up recently. With the ever-increasing quality control in Bordeaux, I expect the 2008 will turn out much the same as this, but it sucks big time that I'll have to wait so long.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Alix Played Meursault (End of April, 2012)

Deux Montilles
Deux Montilles, Meursault, Les Tessons, 2006

There's the classic Meursault fingerprint of roasted hazelnuts, but what allows this wine to escape the confines of the paradigm are the mineral accents that wouldn't be out of place in Chablis, accents that abut a framework that is more about fruit skins than fruit per se. The very taut structure is driven by precise acidity and savory reserve. This is exactly what I love about white Bourgognes (when they successfully survive the cellar): milking finesse for all its worth, while playing the flavors with understatement.

And that's why I love wine. Not for the wines that are so expressive they grab your soul by the short and curlies and make you feel every sip is the kiss of life - although, what the hell, who wouldn't want to drink them all the time? - but for the less exalted wines that effortlessly express the feeling of well being that makes life's struggles, big and small, well worth enduring.

Hmmmm, at 250 NIS from Burgundy Wine Collection, this isn't exactly an every day wine, it's just that it's not a trophy wine. At any rate, an excellent value for a Villages Meursault.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Taking Care Of Business (Apr. 2012)

Any month with a good claret in it is a winner. This month it's the Cantemerle 2007.
I know what you're thinking: 2007?! Well, read on below
Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2009

I had a good run with my bottles of this wine, and it's hard to let go. This is still a fresh, fruity wine with silky tannins, a salty/earthy finish and lovely acidity, while the nose is typically pungent with a dusty, earthy appeal reminiscent of struck matches. I wish I could talk about this wine in fairly conventional tasting-notes qualifications of complexity and finesse and balance, but its charms are off on another plane, in the way it it riffs off a few simple themes (think of Neil Young as a reference point) that bring it close to to Nuits or Gevrey stylistically, without surrendering its grasp on its Gamay-ness. Very tasty, too.(Apr. 4, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

William Fevre, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2008

It never fails. I open a Chablis and I'm home. This one is full of citrus skin,a bit of rain water and so much fossil/marine-air that it reminds me of the slab of salt our Science teacher passed around in 7th grade. I expected more intensity (which is what the 2007 was all about for the couple of years I managed to keep my hands off my meager stash), but this is in a very elegant place right now, which is even better as far as I'm concerned. I prefer just a bit of kinky in my Chablis, which this doesn't have, but its elegance is impressive for sure. (Apr. 5, 2012)

WineRoute, where you can usually get it for about 130 NIS, if you're smart - like me.

Golan Heights Winery, Gamla, Chardonnay, 2010

Served at the Passover feast. Someone ought to teach GHW the value of restraint, because even though it's probably been five-six years since I last drank a Gamla Chardonnay and my tastes have changed in that time, I still find it a much more drinkable and enjoyable wine than the oak-bombs in their upper echelons. I wish they'd treat the fruit destined for the Katzrin and the Yarden with as much discretion and let the sweetness of the fruit, rather than whatever the barrels impart, do the talking. (Apr. 6, 2012).

No idea what this costs these days. 50 NIS?

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Ürziger Würzgarten, Riesling Auslese, 2009

This is still a baby, with the acidity buried deep inside the core of the sweet, precocious fruit. As you'd expect from the Mosel, this feels like an extract of, a discourse on, apples and slate, but with this specimen there is also an unusually strong display (for such a young wine) of kerosene, and also hints of what I suspect are mandarin oranges. (Apr. 6, 2012)

WineRoute, 130 NIS for a half bottle on discount (250 NIS regular price).

Weingut Wittman, Weissburgunder, Trocken, 2009

So Giaconda had a Pinot Blanc special this month, which aroused my curiosity, but I didn't want to go for the more obvious suspects from Alsace or the Pfalz, and I wanted to check out Wittman (although I admit Pinot Blanc and Riesling - where my real interest lies - are worlds apart). On both nose and palate, this is very spicy with more elegance than I've found in its Alsatian brothers. Albeit you could count my encounters with the grape on two hands. Having said that, this is the kind of wine that could well change my mind - it's tasty and unpretentious, with decent complexity and a backdrop of marine minerals that made me a Chablis fan, and I'd probably choose it over the Vaillons above for sheer interest. (Apr. 7, 2012)

100 NIS.

Chateau Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc 5me Cru, 2007

2007 seems to be almost universally disparaged, but then on the face of it, 2002 also was stamped with a "be selective" warning and I admired the 2002's that I tasted. Not that I bought the Cantemerle based on optimistic faith, blind or informed, or any prior tasting experience - it was simply on sale last year (two 300 NIS at WineRoute). Recent purchases brought my Bordeaux stocks to a level where I felt I could spoil my claret craving on a child-less evening with a bottle I probably wouldn't risk opening with affluent afficiandos.

I don't know if the Haut-Medoc has a specific aromatic personality like, say Pauillac or Graves, but you couldn't mistake the nose for anything but Bordeaux: the fruit is mostly red, a little earthy, a little cedary. The palate is not very tasty at first, but a Bordeaux geek like me would enjoy the context. I guess 2007 is the kind of year that you don't pick apart for structural faults but rather for the (lack of) merits of flavors - but the acidity is promising and the tannins already show the kind of savoriness I look out for and I believe will grow even more savory as the wine ages. Better than I expected, and fairly tasty even now with enough air. Given the results of this tasting, I will cellar my remaining bottle and pick up a couple of 2008's. (Apr. 9, 2012)

My wife's aunt, Ahuva Kadouri, cooks in a style I've finally located on my wine map as befitting Burgundy (of both colors) and Austria. To wit...

Bouchard, Aligote, 2009

Classically taut (although with more body than I expected/remembered) and saline. Citrus, smoke, minerals. (Apr. 12, 2012)

WineRoute, about 50 NIS.

Ecker-Echof, Berg-Wagram, Gruner-Veltliner, 2010

Typicity again. Very GruVe. Green beans and somewhat tropical fruit over a reserved frame. A sweet finish tempered by a touch of salinity. (Apr. 12, 2012)

Wine Domains Of Austria, 119 NIS.

Clos Marie, Coteaux du Langedoc, Pic St. Loup, l’Olivette, 2008

While this is a very individualistic wine, it nods at various places that I love or, at the very least, like. If in the past I spotted a resemblance to the North Rhone, this time there's an offhand familiarity to the South Rhone at first, although no Chateaubeuf, Gigondas or Vacqueyras that I ever drank had quite this acidity. There's a pungent earthiness that is vaguely iodine-like on the nose that is echoed on the palate as well that, combined with the specifics of the fruit (but don't ask me to checklist the varieties), reminds me of Bordeaux. This is a tasty, very savory wine that I matched with roast beef and drank rather quickly, so it must be quite good. (Apr. 13, 2012)

IPVinum, about 140 NIS.

Salomon, Steiner Kogl, Riesling, 2009

The reason Eldad Levy managed to hook me into Austrian wines is stuff like this: a dry, lively Riesling in which the variety's tell-tale apple core combines with a swirl of spices that carry on at fair length on the finish, where they linger on, daring the saliva to drown them out.(Apr. 14, 2012)

129 NIS, from the Fat Guy.

Domaine Louis Dupont, Cidre Cuvve Reserve, 2009

Apples and brett, who'd have thought? (Apr. 15, 2012)

IPVinum again, about 70 NIS.

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis Premier Cru, Cote de Lechet, 2007

Simply quintessential: the mineral cut, the green apples on the marine-air/fossil tapestry, the saline finish. On the other hand, the last bottle was more complex (Apr. 17, 2012)

Giaconda, 171 NIS.

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006

As much as I usually love this wine, I'm disappointed. Graillot makes ripe wines. That's the style. He does it well and elegant and there's a sexy languidness to the ripeness, which is why it works. But this time, or just this bottle, there's a loss of expression. Everything is in place - the black pepper, the dusty tannins, the juicy acidity - but it doesn't take off as I'd expected it to. And there's no elegance either. (Apr. 19, 2012)

WineRoute, 130 NIS.

Huet, Vouvray, Pettilant, Brut, 2005

With this revisit, I find it easier to place this in context. I can more easily discern the Chenin Blanc fruit beneath the mousse and I find the acidity and raciness required for the making of bubblies suit the grape. Beyond that, on the nose there's plenty of green apples, citrus fruit, chalk and various other rocks, as well as hints of brioche, making for fairly complex aromatics. The overtly yeasty character I noticed last time is gone, so this is really shining now. The palate has a wonderful cut and the freshness of sour apples, with an herbal, almost minty essence, but to be quite honest, if I compare it to the vintage Champagnes I've been drinking recently, it matches their elegance but not quite their depth. However, it competes quite nicely with non-vintage Champagnes, especially for its price, and the only reason I'm comparing it to vintage stuff is because it says Huet on the label - in its own right, it's an interesting, delicious, refreshing wine! Since Huet makes such age-worthy Vouvrays, I'll have to age my other bottles and see how much depth they gain and then play the Match Game again against the vintage Champagnes. (Apr. 20, 2012)

Giaconda, 150 NIS. Easily a no-brainer buy!

Hirsch, Kammerner Heiligenstein, Gruner Veltliner, 2010

Tart and refreshing, with the light sweetness that GV converys even when vinified dry, complemented by lime and herbal aromas and flavors and an overlay of overturned eart.Very yummy. (Apr. 21, 2012)

Wine Domains Of Austria, 129 NIS.

Recanati, Yasmin, Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot, 2011

Independence Day wine. Quite a nice, bistro-style wine, showing red fruit with a welcome tart edge and a lightly saline finish. (Apr. 26, 2012)

You can usually find this at three bottles for 100 NIS.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Rouge, La Digoine, 2007

Another Digoine, the last of my 2007's. Reserved richness on the nose: red fruit, sous bois, blood. Very 2007 in its leanness, yet there's a nice, mouth-filling shape on the palate which culminates in a saline finish. (Apr. 30, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 140 NIS.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

7GrandCru - The Daniel Lifshitz Revue Hits Vosne and Flagey (Apr. 23, 2012)

Happy Birthday, Daniel!
Welcome to Burgundy. I dare you to find a correlation between price and quality.

Vincent Girardin, Echezaux Grand Cru, 2004

Amazingly complex and fragnant, in an intense distillation of all things Bourgogne: red fruit, spices, meaty stink. Quite harmonious, elegant and long on the palate, with ripe acidity and succulent fruit. Undoubtedly Grand!

WineRoute, didn't get the price.

Michel Gros, Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, Clos des Reas, 2004

This Premier Cru is actually better than the Echezaux, despite - or because of? - the lighter body (not that the Girardin Echezaux was in any way ponderous). The nose is a little more finessed and clean, arguably a little less complex - yet with a touch of sous de bois to keep things interesting - while the palate has greater focus and length. Let's just say it does a lot within its ethereal frame.

Not imported but it looks to cost about 100 USD, so it's half the price of the other three wines I adored this evening.

At this point, we thought we were in for a night of great treats, but the Burgundy roller coaster was about to take a plunge.

A. F. Gros, Echezaux Grand Cru, 1998

Reticent and one dimensional. There's red fruit and spices on a relatively dense and lengthy frame, but nothing in there really makes it take off. Burgundy without any sex appeal, I guess.

I think WineRoute imports this, but I'm not sure.

Liger-Belair, Vosne-Romanee, La Colombiere, 2005

The ripeness of the vintage makes the nose and palate bolder than the 04's, and it takes a while before the red fruit I look for in Bourgognes and Pinot in general appear. Right now, not a forthcoming performance, especially in regards to the the palate, which is meaty yet only a hint of finesse at best.

Not imported.

Liger-Belair, Vosne-Romanee, 2007

Redder and more expressive on the nose than the La Colombiere. The palate, though, is too lean and too green on the finish for my tastes, and if I had to choose, I'd take the former. Although considering the cost, I'd pass on both.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 390 NIS.

Rene Engel, Vosne-Romanee, 2000

Interesting to examine, not a lot of fun to drink. The red fruit and spices are overwhelmed by caramel, then the fruit comes back, finally it goes away for good. So for five minutes, you get to try to guess how old this old lady is beneath the makeup.

Burgundy Wine Collection, probably 200 NIS when it came out. Recent vintages (under the Eugenie label) are 330 NIS.

Ann Gros, Echezaux Grand Cru, 2008

A lighter wine that takes time to open up. Simple red fruit on the nose, tasty on the palate but not a lot of presence or excitement. Although the palate does have length. This is a Grand Cru? No, really?

Liger-Belair, Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, Aux Reignots, 2006

Black fruit, tar, cocoa at first - its Pinosity takes time to emerge: red fruit, leather and exotic spices. Powerful and long - graceful strength and complex depth. Excellent. One of my favorites.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 1000 NIS.

Rene Engel, Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru, 2003

Ripe and liquorish. Honeyed. Yeech.

Burgundy Wine Collection. The 2009 edition costs 1600 NIS.

Meo-Camuzet, Echezeaux Grand Cru, 2006

Red and sleek. I'm a fan of Meo, and I know he should be able to do better than this. I assume it's a matter of youth.

Burgundy Wine Collection. The 2009 is listed for 1100 NIS.

Drouhin, Echezeaux Grand Cru, 2006

A wilder nose, but banal, with less interest than the Meo. I can get a feel for the style here, but I can't get aroused. At least the Meo displays craftsmanship.

The Scottish Company, price unknown.

Domaine Leroy, Vosne-Romanee, 2004

Another of the declassified 2004's. I'm so sorry for the Madam's great personal loss, but I'm still not buying into the myth. The color is murky and the nose smells of orange fruit, not even red. Tasty and juicy, but not complex, not moving, and as usual, not worth the price of admission.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 1400 NIS.

Bouchard, La Romanee Grand Cru, 2004

Earthy and deep. The savory fruit smells and tastes moist, like dew on strawberries. Excellent.

WineRoute, price unknown.

Larmandier-Bernier, Vertus Premier Cru, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, n.v.

Strawberries, green apples and brioche, tasty and refreshing, even if not especially complex.

Boutique de Champagnes, this was a magnum, but a regular bottle sells for 269 NIS.

And did I mention two other Grand Crus were corky? Including my own Engel, Grands Echezeaux 1996?

Hundreds of dollars worth of TCA.