Sunday, August 26, 2012

Yet Another Eclectic Collection (Aug. 8, 2012)

Still an endangered species?

Vigneti Massa, Derthona, 2009

This is 100% Timorasso, a grape on the edge of extinction, like Viognier three decades ago, only much more to my tastes. Despite some light oxidation on nose, the palate is surprisingly lively, albeit with an almond-like bitterness on the finish. Beyond said characteristics, there's a nuttiness on the nose, and just a hint of flowers. Very much Italian: that nuttiness and savory, low-key fruit, with unobtrusive acidity.

J. J. Prum, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 1993

The nose has a crystalline feel to it, as though you were sniffing a snowflake: herbs, slate, petrol, apples receding to peaches on the nose (but more obvious on palate). Lively and lovely, demure and under-stated. At the peak of still youthful maturity.

Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, Chambolle-Musigny, 1999

Forest floor, coffee, red fruit overflowing into black. The earthy side of Pinot, not very Chambolle. Unbalanced, as it is too tannic: bitter tannins, not savory ones. Granted, some '99s I've tasted were still unyielding, but this doesn't feel like it will ever surrender anything worthwhile.

Domaine Henry Gouges, Nuit-Saint-Georges Premier Cru, Les Vaucrains, 2004

A gorgeous nose, on the elegant side of NSG: forest floor, minerals, a balanced blend of red and black fruit. The palate is fresh, vital, full of life. Not complex but charming and tasty, which I guess is 2004 at its best.

Jean-Luc Colombo, Cornas, Les Ruchets, 1999

Black fruit, light traces of brett, pleasantly green notes, just a touch of black pepper. A soft, lovely wine with no sign of rusticity. Fantastic acidity.

Michele Satta, Bolgheri Superiore, i Castagni, 2003

Red fruit, chives, leather, slightly earthy. Luscious yet structured. Tasty, excellent acidity. Another argument for exploring Italians again.

Philippe Delesvaux, Coteaux du Layon, Selection des Grains Nobles, 2006

Quince, brown sugar, apricots, no sign of botrytis. Lower in acidity than other vintages I've tasted (1997, 2001), less elegant, but still a very tasty, hedonistic pleasure.

Many thanks to Yotam Sharon for hosting, as well as for everyone who shared a bottle.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Of Riesling (Aug. 6, 2012)

Toto's sommelier, Aviram Katz, the Fonz of the Israeli wine scene, came up with a local 'franchise' of the Summer Of Riesling event, dedicated to this, ahem, little known grape (of course, I hardly need a special event - I'd drink Riesling as often as possible even if I were living at the North Pole). Efrat and I enjoyed a short evening out and shared a few glasses together. Short, offhand notes follow.

Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck, Riesling Spätlese, 2004

Sweet and seductive, with peaches and notes of petrol. At the cusp where its fruitiness is starting to evolve into true maturity. I have two more at home which I'm going to very much enjoy in a couple of years.

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Weingut Egon Muller, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Scharzhofberg, Riesling QBA, 2009

Red apples, as dry as Mose can get without losing its light, elegant charm. The QBA tag is misleading in Muller's case, I think the purity of the fruit suggests this is somewhere between Kabinett and Spatlese in quality.

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Hirsch, Zobing, Riesling, 2009

Feeling ungainly right after the Muller, but its Austrian charms are persuasive and obvious: green apples, spices and chalk. I need to explore this one more.

Fat Guy, 119 NIS.

Carmel, Kayumi, Riesling, 2011

Very tropical on the nose, dry and mineral on the palate. A charming version of the grape.

Not sure about the price, 70 NIS?

Albert Boxler, Sommerberg Grand Cru, "D", Riesling, 2007

Quince, cherries, apples, spicy, full and complex. Dry, yet its intensity creates an illusion of sweetness. Excellent, only don't look for finesse, just complex stuffings.

Giaconda, 186 NIS.

The full menu, just to give you an idea of the breadth and depth and Aviram's orchestration.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Sea Of Love - A Chablis Tasting (Aug. 2, 2012)

The picture I want to paint here looks better in my head than on paper.

All Chablis - the good ones, anyway - are woven from common threads. The nose should evoke sea air, moss, shells, fossils, chalk; while the palate should be stony and tense, yet with a somewhat limpid core at the same time, the fruit a cross between granny apples and citrus fruit, culminating in a saline finish. The difference between the different crus is often in how all these elements come together in different ways, creating different tapestries and textures. The village wines will show these characteristics in relatively broad strokes, while the Premier and Grand Crus will display them in ever increasing complexities, so you will get a better delineated feel of locale, even if you can't recognize a specific cru.

Thus, while a cross tasting is an educating - and tasty! - experience, I find it excruciatingly difficult to scribe the notes, limited, as I am, to a narrower vocabulary than usual. So I'm almost glad for the duds, as they help me put the highs in context. But Chablis is such a great pleasure for the senses, so just use the highlights below as a draft for your shopping list.

The Solid Performers

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis, 2010

Quasi-typical Chablis nose (fossils, citrus), but a bit mute. A good mineral finish, even if the mid-palate is too round and simple. More Chardonnay than Chablis, although it echoes all or most of the prerequisites: the saline finish, the acidity.

Giaconda, about 130 NIS.

Jean Durup, Chablis, Vieilles Vignes, 2010

Greater typicity here and better definition, on both nose and palate. Crisp, focused, with a powerful, salivating finish. Village level complexity, or even that of a young Premier, if I'm feeling generous.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS. Worth a buy, if you want a Chablis sampler.

William Fevre, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2008

A step up in quality on the nose: minerally, wild and funky. Juicy citrus fruit. The palate is more one-dimensional. Wilder than I expected Vaillons (especially Fevre's) to be, and different than my own experiences at home. I think I will let my last bottle wait a year plus.

WineRoute, where a typical discount is about 3 bottles for 400 NIS.

The Highlights

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses, 2008

A terrific balance and interplay of fruit and minerals. Great pedigree. Very, very tasty. Glad, so glad, to have a couple at home.

WineRoute, 339 NIS.

Christian Moreaux, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, Clos des Hospices, 2008

Elegant, with a kinky, complex note of marine minerals. At this point in time, better than the Les Preuses. Very pure citrus fruit. Another wine I'm glad to own.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 360 NIS.

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis Grand Cru, Vaudesir, 2007

Oyster shells, iodine. Funky. Good fruit and acidity. One of the most electrifyingly marine Chablis at the table.

Giaconda, 320 NIS.

The Duds

Billaud-Simon, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2010

Pink grapefruit, white peaches, flowers - gooseberries?! The mineral bite on the finish is the only thing the discloses its origin. Needs decanting and a lot of time in glass to show minerals.

Billaud-Simon, Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchot, 2010

Like the Billard-Simon Les Clos, this is tropical and flowery (even though this wasn't decanted as the Les Clos was). The Chablis fingerprint is very faint in the background.

Simon-Billard is not imported to Israel, but I understand these cost about 40 Euros at the winery.

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2004

Dried apricots, mushrooms, a faint but definite whiff of soap. Mute. Palate is okay, even though it's too sweet and round. Everyone is shocked, and although stories are told of similarly malfunctioning bottles, I recall a brilliant one from last summer. This bottle wasn't typical of Chablis at all, and in no way a Grand Cru

WineRoute, about 350 NIS.

I'll give the Fevre the benefit of a doubt, but the Billard-Simon is definitely black-listed.

The Wine Of The Night

Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru, Butteaux, 2004

Cheesy and funky, more about shells and the sea than the fruit. Good grip and acidity. Pure, and very Chablis. Saline finish. The most complete wine of the night, and it's fascinating to see how well a Raveneau Premier Cru competes against some very fine Grand Crus. This will keep for sure, and develop - although I'm not sure whether such developments will reveal deeper Chablis characteristics, as opposed to mature Chardonnay traits.

Burgundy Wine Collection, this cost 270 NIS in the first year it was imported, by now the price has creeped up to 420 NIS (and thus, costs more than the Grand Crus it arguably overwhelmed). Yet price isn't the issue, availability is! This sells out within hours of the annual release here in Israel.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Languedoc-Roussillon Tasting (July 23, 2012)

The Wine Of The Night
When the serious wine afficiando drinks a Bordeaux or a Bourgogne, what he or she is looking for is the classical archetype. Let's face it, it's hard enough to find a good Pauillac, Puligny or Chambolle, let alone afford one, so when you do get your hands on one, you really want nature and winemaker to paint you a letter-perfect picture of the Platonic ideal. You want a solid stock in your portfolio.

I approach Barolo, Chianti, Rioja with similar expectations.

So where do you experiment?

Riesling and Chenic Blanc, naturally, almost force a certain inconsistency down your throat, as these varieties by their nature reflect their origins almost too well. And many times the weather and their makers' idiosyncracies. But where I really look for a wild, personal sense of dare-doing is the nether regions of the Old World of wine, where tradition never laid down a rigid map and compass - just enough tradition to ensure someone has food in mind when they make and drink wine. Of course, I want elegant old school where I can get it, but I don't mind if someone wants to play Fairy Chess.

Which is where Uri Caftory and the latest IPVinum portfolio come in.

I'm riffing off too much on Hugh Johnson. I'll really need to crack a joke soon.

Present were a partial roll call of the Daniel Lifshitz Burgundy Revue plus two local winemakers. And a guest. And Uri himself.

Saint Antoin, Faugeres, Les Jardins, Rose, 2011

A light, very refreshing and drinkable wine - dry, earthy and all about strawberries. Just enough interest on the nose and palate. Equal measures of Grenache and Cinsault. 70 NIS.

Clos Marie, Languedoc Pic St. Loup, Manon, 2011

Lovely nose: light notes of iodine, nuts, gunpowder, with the fruit present, yet restrained, in the background. Refreshing acidity, maybe needs to settle down a little? Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and more varieties. Worth a purchase. About 150 NIS.

Domaine de Mouscaillo, Limoux, 2008

100% Chardonnay. Just the kind of nose you always want to get in Bourgogne, give or take stylistic variations: dried grass, flint, smoke, nuts. But the palate is rounder, more honeyed and fat, than you'd get in the Cote, maybe more of a Macon or a Chalonnaise, if a more precise context is needed. 150 NIS. The Manon is much more interesting, to me, but the Limoux presents a pleasant surprise vis a vis what Chardonnay can produce in unlikely settings.

Clos Marie, Languedoc Pic St. Loup, l'Olivette, 2010

Where did the brett go? Out with the Carignan, this year. But it's still very Mediterannean, meaty and peppery. Ripe yet fresh. And very Syrah (if not Rhone), which is perhaps why I prefer it to the La Nine (below), that we tasted alongside it. 135 NIS.

Domaine Jean Baptiste Senat, Minervois, La Nine, 2010

Black and spicy. A fruity wine which I like less than the l'Olivette: it's a style I approach with suspicion. But it's sure to be a crowd pleaser, no sarcasm intended. 130 NIS.

Coume del Mas, Collioure, Schistes, 2010

Ripe, yet peppery and smokey. I find it a winner like the 2007 I had a couple of years ago. Chocolate-y, seductive. Which is why I like it, for the way it builds a foundation of seduction on a surprisingly firm structure. 150 NIS.

And speaking of the 2007:

Similar ripeness here, less pepper on the other hand. Black and blue fruit. Meaty and a little musty. More complex, less fresh. An interesting comparison.

Domaine de l'Horizon, Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, Rouge, 2010 280 NIS.

L'Esprit de l'Horizon, Rouge, 2010 195 NIS.

Two wines that smell like twins. Taste quite similar, too, both quite juicy and mineral-laden, with savory tannins. Maybe l'Esprit is a little softer and juicier, the Rouge muscular - A Volnay/Pommard contrast, perhaps?

Jean Baptiste Senat, Minervois, Le Bois des Merveilles, 2010

Fruity, modern, a touch meaty. Very juicy. 190 NIS.

Domaine de l'Horizon, Blanc, 2009

If the Bois des Merveilles doesn't inspire a wordy effort on my part, this is a drop dead gorgeous, wine of the night, utterly unique drop. An amazing nose. As complex and deep as a Chablis Grand Cru, but more honeyed and sweet without actually being sweeter. Whereas the other wines in the tasting feel like they sprung out of nowhere, this feels like it's deeply embedded in a background of wine and food culture, even if the Domaine is only about six years old. 280 NIS.

Domaine Bott-Geyl, Kronenbourg, Lieu-dit, Riesling, 2009

The last stop is Alsace and a wine I've had before, the 2005 from IPV's inaugural catalog - which didn't knock me out, exactly. That one was too mineral (if you and I can somehow conceive of a wine too minerally for me), this is better balanced, intensely floral without being sweet. Refreshing, for sure, but somehow a little dull, but it'a a Riesling and I wouldn't bet against its potential for increasing its interest level. About 150 NIS.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Taking Care Of Business (July, 2012)

This month finds me totally in tune with the aesthetics of Austrian whites. Among other things.

Clerc Milon, Pauillac, 5me Cru Classe, 1996

A classic Pauillac: the currant-ish lift on the nose sets an example for all Cab-based reds. Of course, it's just Clerc Milon, so while there's a nice earthy/leathery/mushroomy overlay, it's not really profound or anything like that, but the aromatics whet my appetite, so it passes the entrance exam. Then there's the palate, with fresh red fruit and a rusty, savory tannic bite. The bottom line is: decent complexity, decent finesse, decent bottle-age wine-iness - and terrific food friendliness. (July 2, 2012)

About 80 USD.

Mount Etna
Can't you just imagine this weird old vine growing at
the crossroads where Robert Johnson met the devil?

Terren Nere, Etna Rosso, Calderara Sottana, 2009

So the hype is, as I wrote when I covered this rising star, is that the Etna Rosso DOC/Nerello Mascalese grape is the either the Bourgogne or Barolo of Sicily. The question is: which is it? With this cuvee, the vote is split down the middle, as the aromas (red cherries, flowers, a hint of salty sweat and the slightly cured spicines) have an affinity with both Pinot Noir and Nebbilo, while the palate has the light touch of the former and the tea-bag tannins of the latter. Approachable, once you get by the not-formidable-but-stubborn tannins, but this could go for as long as a decent Nebbiolo of a similar age, I think. (July 7, 2012)

Fat-Guy, 230 NIS.

Caruso and Minini, Sicilia IGT, Tasari (Nero d'Avola-Merlot), 2010

Very appealing rustic charm, without any chunkiness, just fresh, savory berry fruit with a hint of herbs and minerals. (July 8, 2012)

Fat Guy again, 69 NIS. Great value!

Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Vergers, 2006

It seems that every time I'm ready to write off Cote d'Or whites (in favor of their humble brethren from the south or their upscale competition from Chablis), along comes an affirmation. One that is especially surprising in this case, as I've had some mediocre experiences with Fontaine-Gagnard recently. But this bottle reminds me why my friends and I found this producer so appealing when WineRoute started importing the house five years ago.

This has an attractive nose that presents dried grass and matches (perhaps not the best image in an Israeli summer), with baked apples in the background, and lightly oxidative notes that add complexity without carrying over to the palate at the cost of freshness. The palate: the palate is tasty and supple, without any obvious fat, with a grainy texture tempered by the filter of finesse, and with a complexity worthy of the Premier Cru label and price tag. (July 12, 2012)

WineRoute, about 250 NIS., making this particular bottle an excellent value.

Alzinger, Wachau, Leibenberg, Riesling Smaragd, 2010

One of the things I look for in wines is a sense of fun, and Eldad Levy's Austrian imports are fun! I mean, they're drop dead gorgeous at times, but also (mainly?) fun and tasty.

I liked this at Eldad's introductory tasting, but my impressions were still embryonic, and now the shape of this wine is clearer to me. This has a tropical, exotic character but most of all, it is defined, for me, by a gorgeous evergreen mint note, with perhaps a faint echo of ginger. The structure has better focus now, and the spicy finish so typical of Austrian is more obvious. Plus, with more and more air, the vibrant acidity lends the fruit great vitality. (July 13, 2012)

Fat Guy, 209 NIS.

A. Et. P. De Villaine, Cote Chalonnaise Blanc, Les Clous, 2008

Four years is a bit on the early side for this wine (depsite its relatively lowly price) but I find it approachable already. It's a very nutty wine, but rather in the way that Champagne is nutty rather than, say, Meursault is nutty. Beyond that, it's about citrus rather than apples and pears, with a compact stoniness on the palate. Good acidity, that blends in very well with the fruit. Needs an hour or two of air at this point for the fruit to reach its inherent purity.(July 15, 2012)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS.

Salomon, Kremstal, Undhof, Kogl, Erste Lage, 2009

This, typically, starts out more Austrian than Riesling, with the balanced dose of spices and minerals that good Austrians bring to the game field embracing fruit that has an almost exotic aspect, without obscuring the innate clarity and purity of the fruit. Of course, this being Riesling, the aromas show more and more apples, and a pretty herbal streak, with air and time. (July 21, 2012)

Fat Guy, 129 NIS. Go for it, fanboys - wait, it's already sold out, I guess good news travels fast!

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erdener Treppchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2009

Oh damn, this is tasty. Granny apples, slate, parsley, dill and - grapes. Still a little fizzy. (July 25, 2012)

WineRoute, 90-120 NIS. Depends.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Bernkasteler Lay, Riesling Kabinett, 2009

Greater purity and breed here, compared to the Treppchen, even if this is somewhat less racy, but just as tasty. Hard to be sure without actually tasting them side by side, but I think this is the better wine. Certainly, it has a bigger reservoir of gems to draw from: starting with the usual apples and slate, as it opens, it shows flowers, mint, rainwater, even cherries.(July 27, 2012)

Same details as the Treppchen.

Chateau Charmail, Haut-Medoc, Bourgeois Cru, 2005

Cassis, licorice, earth, cedar, a touch of violets. Obviously a product of a very warm and ripe vintage, and to be quite honest, while it's obviously a claret, I'm not sure I'd recognize it as an actual Bordeaux, blind. There's a core of fresh fruit in there, but the tannins surrounding it are grainy and bitter, so despite the heralded vintage, I'm not sure about the future, despite a more optimistic reading a year ago. (July 28, 2012)

WineRoute, 2 for 300 NIS, when the 2005's came out.