Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Of Riesling 2015

Make no mistake about, Riesling is one of the most versatile grapes and produces some of the friendliest food matches. The fact that we so often put the best examples on a pedestal doesn't mean we can't take the wines off that pedestal and put them to every day use.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2007

Emrich-Schönleber and Halenberg is a match made in heaven, just like Bird and the alto sax (or Bird playing forward in the Boston Garden, if you will). The result, be it dry or off-dry, Spatlese or Großes Gewächs, is always focused and regal and, at its best, stunning. This shows a cerebral, visceral and caustic character that I often find in the GG style - challenging, but worth the challenge. The nose is deep and complex, displaying grapefruit and green apples in harmony with minerals and hops. The palate is mostly an echo and a complement of the nose, tempering the grapefruit and hops with a salty note on the attack, a lingering sweetness on the finish and a juicy, pitch-perfect acidity in between. (May 1, 2015)

Giaconda, 400 NIS.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spätlese trocken, 2008

This, on the other hand, is lighter, showing racy, focused, pungent green apples with crushed rocks and chalk, brioche where the Großes Gewächs was hops and salt. It's less complex and less showy, more subtle. (July 16, 2015)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erdener Prälat, Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, 2009

Delicately balanced liquid candy with notes of tropical fruit and lemon pie and a faint - yet distinct - layer of minerals and mint. So harmonious and joyfully delicious and complex that it's hard to break it down by components. Sure it can age, but its youthful veneer at present is almost incandescent. (May 2, 2015)

Wine Route. I lost track of the price, but I think this half bottle was 150-200 NIS.

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rüdesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels, Spatlese, Riesling Alte Reben, 2006

The Alte Reben is at the sweet spot where a classic German Riesling makes you feel all warm and tingly inside. The green apples have started to melt into peaches, while the minerals notes flirt at petrol and a mellow, elegant, honeyed complexity. This is labelled a Spatlese, but I find echoes of the Grosses Gewachs style. Meanwhile, the old vines don't endow it with intensity so much as rocky depth, combined with light sweetness. (May 17, 2015)

Sphera, White Concepts, Riesling, 2014

I've been chasing Sphera's Riesling for months, and now that I've found a bottle, I think that, at this stage in its life, this carries Doron Rav-Hon's signature more than it does the the variety's.  Like many of his wines, it is floral with traces of rainwater, herbs and minerals on the nose. If you presented it to me blind, I'd never be able to contextualize it, and would probably never guess the grape. The acidity is relatively low for a Riesling, and there's no major presence of apples.* With that light bitterness, I might go for north Italy, while the floral notes would make me think of a blend with some Viognier in it. I like it a lot, though, and I think that, in the end, it does bring a lovely and elusive sense of identity beyond the grape or the wine maker. (May 18, 2015)

* Hold that thought. A bottle a month later (Jun. 26, 2014) had a definite abundance of apples, so much so that, after a couple of hours, the nose reminded me of a Normandy cidre.

About 100 NIS.

Joh. Jos. Prüm, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Great crystalline purity, with accouterments that express the Mosel perfectly: green apples that marry sweetness with racy acidity, hints of slate, smoke and petrol, a touch of tropical fruit in mid palate and finish to make things even more interesting. Germany, the Mosel specifically, has many producers who can make Rieslings as delicious as this, but few with this light a touch, one that conveys depth and complexity with such ethereal ease. (May. 24, 2015)

Giaconda, I lost track of the price, probably around 180 NIS.

Y'all were waiting for Dönnhoff to show up, admit it!

Dönnhoff, Nahe,  Schloßböckelheimer Felsentürmchen, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Dönnhoff might well be Prüm's counterpart in the Nahe, and the Felsentürmchen is a very interesting contrast to the Sonnenuhr. It's not quite as light, but the acidity is even more thrilling, and there is not a sign of petrol (which, as I recall reading, Dönnhoff sees as a fault), but rather a veneer of smoke and clay. As I write this, I realize I usually have a hard time to string together descriptors for Donnhoff's wines, as, at their best, they impress on a level oblique to the usual discussion of aromas, flavors and structure. However, they always offer a share of mystic greatness, and the share this time is very generous. (May 28, 2015)

Giaconda, about 200 NIS.

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal Reserve, Gaisberg 1er Lage, Riesling, 2010

If there's a thread common to Austrian Rieslings (at least those I've drunk and tasted), it is the mineral and spices on the nose and palate - sure, you've got a similar fingerprint in Alsace too, but Alsatians often have a bitter quinine flavor, as well, which I find less palatable. Anyway, here, with this perennial favorite of mine, the effect is complex and refined and sealed by a long, lightly salty finish. And, what I always love about the Gobelsburg Gaisberg is present here too: an icy, crystalline expression of green apples surrounding the spices, expressed both on the nose and in the scintillating acidity.(Jun. 12, 2015)

Fat Guy, 159 NIS.

Schlossgut Diel, Nahe, Dorsheimer Goldloch, Riesling Spätlese, 2010

You've gotten this far through the post because you love Riesling. There's a good chance you love the Nahe. And if you live in Israel, that love is likely based on the (almost) holy trinity of Emrich-Schonleber, Schafer-Frohlich and, foremost, Donnhoff. Anyway, that's how things stand with me, so I was very happy to expand my experience and pick up a bottle of a Nahe producer I haven't tried yet in Berlin. This is on the rich side for a Spätlese, although its youth might be contributing to that impression. The depth and complexity take time to show, and then I get chalk, red apples, cherries, hints of petrol, all driven by, and thriving on, extremely fresh and appetizing acidity. Very delicious, and it begs cellaring. (Jun 18, 2015)

About 30 euros.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg, Riesling trocken, 2007

The label says trocken, but the neck boasts the Großes Gewächs imprint, and what's inside the bottle certainly shows the Großes Gewächs personality: "cerebral, visceral and caustic", as I described the Emrich-Schönleber. Then I find the kind of complex aromatics that make Terry Theise muse about peasants plowing wheat fields as the sun sets or something equally idyllic, and if you wanted to be less colorful you could just say apples, lime, minerals and dry grass - but it certainly offers a very deep and reflective sniffing experience, the equal of any serious Cote the Beaune Premier Cru. The palate can caress but at times it grips and makes you pause for thought. As much as I love Donnhoff, the Emrich-Schönleber is the better GG (but the Schloßböckelheimer Felsentürmchen, Riesling Spätlese trumps them both). (Jun. 22, 2015)

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Riesling trocken, 2012

A very friendly, very moreish, dry Pfalz, almost surprisingly salty, with pungent apple skin. (July 18, 2015)

Giaconda, 100 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Saar, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

Hans Selbach makes this out of bought grapes from the Saar and it's going to be a hit. You might be fooled into thinking it's just a simple wine, because it's so tasty you can't possibly get past the electrifying mint laced lemon fruit to notice the structure and breadth. (July 23, 2015)

Fat Guy, about 110 NIS.

Mosel Saar Face-off
St. Urbans-Hof, Saar, Ockfener Bockstein, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

This is brought to you by the Flam winery's import arm and has a classic, kabinett body, lean and lithe; granny apples and slate, at first, followed by apricot confit. Throughout its evolution in the glass, there's a yeasty strain, like due to its youth. Very nice, if idiosyncratic. (July 24, 2015)

About 110-120 NIS.

Wegeler, Mosel, Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Spätlese, 2011

This, too, is a venerable name, especially the vineyard. The relative warmth of Mosel compared to Saar, combined with the addition ripeness of Spätlese, make this a fuller, fruitier wine, even before taking into account vintage variances. The additional bottle age is evident in the complexity and the greater expression of the trademark slate and dill, as well as in the hints of petrol and smoke. This has a couple of decades ahead of it, but if you drink it now, I guarantee you won't be able to put it down. Sensational.(July 24, 2015)

Bought at the Berlin duty free, 36 Euros and this is yours.

Somewhere, over the rainbow - Durbach
Andreas Laible, Baden, Durbacher Plauelrain, Riesling Trocken Achat, 2013

There's that terroir thing again. This has the same floral purity as Laible's Scheurebe (which like all the domaine's wines comes from the heart of the Plauelrain vineyard), with a surprisingly large helping of fresh red fruit (not just red apples, but red cherries, even currants), as well as green apples and just a touch of guayavas. It's delicate and crystalline and so beautiful that it's breathtaking. Honestly. In a summer so full of beautiful Rieslings, this might just be the winner, at least in the dry Riesling category. It's all subjective, of course, and I may be swayed by its scarcity  (I bought this on a family trip to Baden, when I visited the family VDP producer, and I have yet to locate any of their wines in any urban center in Europe or the US that I've visited), but I think that, after all these years, I know a great Riesling when I drink it. And this is not even the Grosses Gewaches, which was the better wine when I tasted both at the winery. (Aug. 2, 2015)

17 euros at the winery - I want to rip my balls off for not buying more.

A Major League Newcomer

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Riesling Trocken, 2014

Eldad Levy has started to import a cult producer so small that not even Terry Theise carries the entire portfolio. This says trocken on the label, but the balance of sugar, fruit and acidity is such that it highlights a character of a freshly picked green apple and ends up tasting sweeter than it probably is, yet a touch salty at the same time. If you ever wanted to make an energy drink out of Riesling, this vibrant wine would probably be the result. (Aug. 6, 2015)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Riesling feinherb, 2014

Feinherb is a loosely defined, flexible alternative term for halbtrocken. In practical terms, this means ther isn't a big stylistic or qualitative difference  between it and the troken, except this has somewhat more weight and definition, and that same vibrant acidity. And, of course, it is sweeter and would better satisfy most people's expectations of a classic Mosel. (Aug. 8, 2015)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, 2014

This is where things gets interesting. Or, at the very least, promising, because this kabinett is still very primal and reticent, but you can tell it's going to be very archetypal because of its balance and composure. (Aug. 9, 2015)

This should cost 135 NIS, he other two about 100 each.

A Perennial Favorite

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Kabinett, 2012 

I think this is actually going into something of a shell. It was more vibrant last year, and now, while it's still a beautiful piece of work, typical Mosel green apples and cold slate, the youthful spark is muted, in the process of being replaced by deft savoriness. (Aug. 17, 2015)

Fat Guy, 135 NIS.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Taking Care Of Business (July, 2015)

Orence de Beler - a legend in the making
Domaine Gerard Julien, Côte de Nuits Villages, 2012

The best buying strategy in Burgundy is to find an up and coming, hard working, new kid in the block - and this is true whether you're buying retail or importing. Daniel Lifshitz has a good nose for producers like that, and this is a case in point, because even though this is a venerable old estate, over a hundred years old, it was hardly on anyone's map and 2012 is the first vintage by Etienne, the founder's great-grandson. He did a good job. This wine comes from plots around the hamlet of Comblanchien. You've probably never heard of it, but the Côte de Nuits Villages that Daniel had in last year's catalog, the Domaine Ballorin, also came from the same village, and both have similar languid red fruit with floral trappings and hints of sweat. This is earthier, though, with somewhat more scrappy tannins. (July 8, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 165 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Macon Rouge, Chateau de Berze, 2012

I could be coy and write that I'd forgotten how good this is, but the truth is, I could never forget how good Orence de Beler's wines are. The nose is very detailed and hypnotically sniffable, leaves rotting on the forest floor with a touch of exotic spices, while the palate has fine grip and length, with a core of supple fruit. Even if you placed it in the company of the finest Beaujolais Crus, this Gamay would easily lead the pack. (July 9, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 200 NIS. The price has gone up, but it's still worth it.

Domaine Buisson-Charles, Aligote, Sous Le Chemin, 2011

We don't get that many classy Aligotes in Israel, but the few we do have, such as this one, along with the Benoit Ente and Domaine Leroy versions, are top-notch whites that highlight Bourgogne as much as they do the grape. This, and the Ente as well, won't dent the wallet. There's flint, dry grass and savory/sour/salty citrus fruit. (July 11, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 115 NIS.

Potel-Aviron, Morgon, Côte du Py, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

A fine, elegant Beaujolais Cru, with a fair degree of rusticity, a floral nose reminiscent of a claret, fresh, earthy red fruit, and fine-grained, savory tannins building to a long, focused finish. Gains weight and intensity in glass, until it becomes overbearing, actually, but it still manages to keep the Burgundy streak going. (July 12, 2015)

Giaconda, 120 NIS.

Domaine Matrot, St. Romain Blanc, 2009

This is one of the most useful whites in Daniel's catalog, just a simple white from arguably the most unpretentious village in the cote. It gets the job done, it's tasty, and it's a great introduction to all that Bourgogne whites should aspire to - clean pure fruit with a touch of minerals and dried grass, very good acidity, savory saltiness on the finish - that repays return visits for any lover of Burgundy. And as a bonus, Daniel always brings in these Saint Romains at a sweet spot in their drinking plateau. (July 14, 2015)

Bourgogne Crown, 180 NIS.

Tzora, Shoresh, Blanc, 2014

This has been one of the best Israeli whites since it was introduced a couple of years back. It starts off with a lot of tropical fruits before settling down and showing chalk. The slew of sweet/sour flavors can't obscure the cut and acidity-driven structure. (July 15, 2015)

129 NIS.

Villa Russiz, Collio, Sauvignon de La Tour, 2012

Now this is a Sauvignon Blanc from the Collio DOC in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The DOC borders on Slovenia and I picked this up on an excursion to Trieste when I was in Slovenia a few weeks ago. The wine shop was a very decent one, with a wide selection of Italian wines from all over the country, but I decided that if I'm in northeast Italy, I'm going to buy wines from the region and consulted my latest edition of Hugh Johnson's Wine Pocketbook for a shortlist. This appeared to be a classic from a venerable house and I didn't notice the 14.5% ABC, which would have put me off. But the alcohol is actually quite unobtrusive, no sense of overbearing  heat or sweetness, it simply seems to lend more weight to the tropical fruit that lurks under a bedrock of chalk and herbs. I won't say it's half way between the Loire and New Zealand, which is a tempting cliche when discussing SB's and rarely accurate - I'd rather say it's different enough from these two paradigms which tend to define the range of the grape and dominate the discussions of it. (July 22, 2015)

32 euros.

G. D. Vajra, Nebbiolo, 2013

(Really lovely wine that highlights the best of Nebbiolo without the tannic heaviness of Barolo that takes years to tame. Red fruit, iron and spices, soft body backed by good acidity and great drinkability. (July 25, 2015)

Dani Galil, 90 NIS.

One more Italian this month.

Livio Felluga, Colli Orientali del Friuli, illivio, 2012

This is another of the Trieste purchases and I think it's typical of Italy when try to model themselves after an oaky Chassagne/Meursault style. The grapes fit that style - Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and local variety Picolit - and while I would have preferred less obvious oak, the fruit (mandarin oranges and apples, with a veil of roasted nuts) carries it well. So technically, nice enough, but there are thousands like it out there and what idiosyncratic quirks it has (and it does have an interesting finish that you would only notice when it warms up) are given an anonymous face lift. (July 26, 2015)

28 euros.

Vitkin, Petit Sirah, 2010

The recent tasting at Vitkin prompted this revisit of what I think will turn out to be a local classic. As always, I adore the way it juggles the red fruit against the leather/iodine/clay bouquet and the rusty tannins. Maybe I'll even manage to curb my enthusiasm enough to age it. (July 29, 2015)

110 NIS.

Delamotte, Le Mensil-Sur-Oger, Blanc de Blancs, 2002

This is very fresh and young, still reserved, almost backward, just green apples and mushrooms. This is thirteen years already and could easily coast to its thirtieth birthday. (July 30, 2015)

About 50 GBP.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Birthday Wines, 2015

Stage I: with the family

Foradori, Fontanasanta, Manzoni Bianco, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, 2012

Nuts and minerals, pears, ripe apples bordering on cider without going over the top, honey, underbush.  Manzoni is a cross of Riesling and Pinot Bianco, but because this is actually an orange wine, the effect is that of a light Pinot Noir - just try it blindfolded. Very unique, fascinatingly unique -  I wouldn't have called it my cup of tea but now that I've tried it, I want a second shot at the mother. (July 18, 2015)

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Jean Lallement, Verzenay Grand Cru, Cuvée Réserve, n.v.

This is one non-vintage that will want time in the wine fridge. It's very like the regular cuvée -with that same funky chicken broth turned up a few notches - with the fruit is so deep, that despite the minimal dosage, it feels sweet aching to shed some baby fat. Which becomes evident as it becomes lean and focused with time. (July 19, 2015)

Fat Guy, 299 NIS.

Stage II - with friends, at Halutzim 3

Selbach-Oster, Saar, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

Hans Selbach makes this out of bought grapes from the Saar and it's going to be a hit. You might be fooled into thinking it's just a simple wine, because it's so tasty you can't possibly get past the electrifying mint laced lemon fruit to notice the structure and breadth.

Larmandier-Bernier, Longtitude, n.v.

What a fantastic nose: brioche, baked apples, mushrooms, chalk, the whole gamut, just jumps out and grabs you without being over the top. And that's just the nose, mates, the palate is classy and tasty as hell, the balance of fruit and acidity nailed perfectly.

Vilmart, Coeur de Cuvée, 2006

The first impression is a bigger blast than the Larmandier, almost monolithic within its facade of green apples, until it starts to calm down and show nuances of sauteed mushrooms. It's sweet and ripe with convincing balance and great purity, freshness and depth. You can sense the tense potential, but it's not ready yet, still far from its peak.

Produttori dei Barbaresco, Barbaresco, Pora, 1996

Hey hey hey! This is a very good specimen of mature Nebbiolo, with red, dusty, spicy fruit. The varietal tannic backbone is there, but the fruit is soft, warm and inviting, just what you'd expect from old school Barbaresco, and strays far from the muscular showcase Barolos.

Couly-Dutheil, Chinon, Clos de l'Echo, 2002

A little mute at first, but then shows subtle depth. There's a greenness here expressed as tobacco leaves, a touch of earth, saline, savory. A charming wine that has aged well and can keep going for years. Gets even redder and purer with air.

Alas, there were two TCA victims in the lineup. In the case of the Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint Julien 2me Cru, 1995, the TCA took time to show, so for a couple of hours after opening, you could still get the classic claret bouquet of currants and earth, although the TCA eventually killed the fruit, leaving just drying, bitter tannins. The Serafin, Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru, Les Millandes, 2002 was even worse, although it must have been a better wine to begin with, since you could get a much better sense of the great fruit.

Coldstream Hills, Yarra Valley, The Esplanade, Pinot Noir, 2012

The nose is a nice riff off the Bourgogne mold, fresh Pinot fruit, a touch candied, although the palate is sweeter and the whole package is much cleaner and more, well, obvious, than Burgundy. It's a nice discovery, although I'm not sure how much it would command my interest beyond a glass.

Drinking this is like meeting your future wife
Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac Premier Cru, 1998

Great Bordeaux wear their greatness with ridiculously effortless ease, and this is not only great, it's so delicious the palate remains in post coital bliss when you're done with the contents of your glass. And what's in the glass, you ask? Black fruit, graphite, full bodied yet light and insinuating. Very finely tuned, complex and detailed. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Come to the Serafin Safari With Me (Jun. 29, 2015)

The latest installment in Daniel Lifshitz and Eldad Levy's on-going tastings, rambling through the Bourgogne Crown's portfolio producer by producer, brings us to venerable Christian Serafin, a perfectionist Gevrey producer who's been growing vines and crafting wines for over half a century.

While all the wines we tasted were obviously crafted by the same meticulous hand, always true to the classic French wine aesthetic (which is my shorthand for nuanced, balanced and elegant), there were obvious vintage and vineyard variations.

Bourgogne, 2011

There is high quality juice in here, beyond that of a mere Bourgogne, because this is a declassified Gevrey, and what it gives most of all is that tingling sensation that says minerals to me. What it lacks in weight it makes up in finesse and pleasure. 225 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin, 2011

The 'real' Gevrey is made of slightly older vines and there is more weight, grip and depth now. The fruit in both cases is pure and balanced well with the acidity and tannins. It hints at the classic Gevrey sauvage, which I think has a great deal to do with minerals anyway, with a perfumed, yet reserved, touch of flowers. 345 NIS,

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Cazetiers, 2007

Very expressive and teasing aromas of flowers with a touch of meat, which carries to the palate, with its deep red fruit and saline finish. Already complex yet promises more to come, despite the reputation of 2007 for being early drinking. 790 NIS.

Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin, 2007

I think the Cazetiers could challenge many a Grand Cru for finesse and mystery, but this Charmes has greater power and obvious expression and presence, with an intensity that borders at liqueur without really going there. Very long and the most animalistic. 1000 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Corbeaux, 2001

This is less wildly expressive, yet very classic and presents Gevrey sauvage in an elegant frame. It's ready, showing mature complexity and gastronomic finesse. The most complete wine of the evening. 695 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Corbeaux, 2005

This makes for a striking contrast with the 2001, although the family resemblance is obvious. It's less complex, less approachable, but with greater power. The least evolved and least expressive wine of the evening. 785 NIS.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Les Fonteny, 1993

This is less complete than the Corbeaux 2001 and less expressive than the Charmes, the night's obvious stars, but there is wonderful freshness in here and the swath of sauvage cuts deeper. There's sweetness of fruit, too, but one tempered and sautéed by age. It's not a great wine, just a very good one that has aged well and which shows interesting complexity on the finish. 1100 NIS.

Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin, 1988

There's a joker in every pack. This is hardcore and rustic with an expressive stink you either love or hate: balsamic vinegar, salami, mushrooms, epoisses. The palate is a long, expressive composition that scowls and smiles at the same time. 1500 NIS.