Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bourgogne Crown - End Of Year Tasting (Jan. 26, 2017)

Has the End Of Year tasting become a tradition by now? Or was this just an excuse to taste highlights of the 2016 portfolio before the new catalog is emailed to us loyal customers?

Four or five years into the venture, the catalog is a mix of proven stars and (mostly) new up-and-comers. The portfolio become a proven commodity: I could plow into the catalog blind and come up with gold medalists as well as tasty little regional and village wines that make me purr, which is something I wouldn't say about any other importer. But, that's really just me and my tastes and there's the usual caveats: the Bourgogne Crown folks are my friends, and I tend to be loyal to my friends - although not loyal enough to overlook the rawness of the Berthaut and Taupenot Merme, nor the fact that the Guyot Clos Vougeot is, at the end of the day, a Clos Vougeot (more details on that ahead).

The tasting discounts were very generous, which is why you can all afford the following vin de garde:

Domaine Denis Berthaut, Fixin, Les Clos, 2013

An intense nose, heavy on the spices. Tannic and acidic, with good, substantial fruit beneath the unaccommodating surface. I really hadn't expected it to show younger than the higher breed wines of the evening; right now, with its raw, adolescent edges, it is more about focus and oomph than expression, and thus not showing the same pretty drinkability and grace as the Berhtaut Bourgogne and basic Fixin.

140 NIS.

Domaine Pierre Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2014

This is the basic Village wine (Duroche has four lieux-dits as well). A touch of funk - not brett, but rather the famous Gevrey sauvage character - and very ripe flowers, to the point where you'd be right if you called it rotting petals. The fruit is fresh and lovely now, not complex, but of true to the Gevrey mold and charming.

160 NIS. 

La Maison Romane, Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice, 2014

La Justice is a classic Gevrey village parcel, where just about every producer has a holding. Less precise, dirtier, than the Duroche. As it airs, it reaches a balance between iron, earth and rusty fruit that I expect to become more precise with cellar time. I love this domaine, but Duroche's approach seems to convery the essence of Gevrey much better. At any rate, the palate is much fresher and cleaner than the nose initially suggests. 

285 NIS.

Domaine Gerard Julien, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Bousselottes, 2013

For me, what the domaine made of this rather obscure premier cru is a thrilling discovery. The initial whiffs suggest spices and flowers, before those flowers just erupt in the glass. On the palate, the flowers are very pronounced in the mouth in a very elegant package, nervy tannins wrapped around almost silky fruit.

285 NIS. 

Domaine Amiot Servelle, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Charmes, 2013

A winner nose, with aromatic complexity that pulls you inward, even though I miss the explosive florality I found in previous vintages/encounters. In Burgundian terms, the palate is on the tough side, that is cool and aloof, which is also something I've found in the Amiot Charmes in its adolescence.

390 NIS.

Domaine Taupenot Merme, Morey St. Denis Premier Cru, Riotte, 2013

I have limited experience with Taupenot Merme, but from what experience I do have, the wines are muscular, yet fluid and sexy. Here, on the other hand, the palate is almost all muscles, with firm tannins pinning the fruit. I suppose that's terroir, as I never find overt sexiness in Morey. Surprisingly, however, the nose is delicate, with almost fragile strands of earth and flowers.

440 NIS. If I had enough experience with how the Riotte ages, I'd go for it, but the Charmes and Fremiets just kill it as far as value goes.

Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Fremiets, 2013

This is a Premier Cru on the Pommard border, and it shows: this is the closest thing to a Pommard in the Bourgogne Crown catalog these days, with iron, black fruit and minerals as well as a distinctly saline finish. A demanding customer, this is, even if I do prefer the more typical of the Marquis' Volnays.

370 NIS.

Domaine Olivier Guyot, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, 2013

Powerful, deep, broad - fruity and floral, carried by a mineral laden character, it is not very complex or elegant, showing not only the power of Clos Vougeot but also the plaintive beauty so typical of Guyot. It expresses the Clos Vougeot terroir, alright, but it's a personal decision whether Vougeot is enough of a Grand Cru to justify the price. That is hardly the fault of the domaine, which, even here, is the epitome of filigree without artifice.

695 NIS.

Domaine Gerard Julien, Echezeaux Grand Cru, 2013

This is, for me, what a Grand Cru is all about. It's not about power for sure, not even necessarily about intensity (which is not the same thing as power) or even complexity. For me, it's about pedigree, and my take on that elusive term is the capacity to captivate the senses with as little effort as possible. And, as monolithic, distant and almost harshly herbal as this is, it says Grand Cru to me, whereas whoever classified the huge Clos Vougeot vineyard as a Grand Cru instigated centuries of debate. But sticking with the Echezeaux, fifteen to twenty years for it to hit its stride seems about right.

585 NIS. 

Domaine Amiot Servelle, Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru, Amoureuses, 2013

WOTN. Effortlessly powerful. Also a twenty year wine, you sort of gasp when you realize how offhandedly it wears its greatness, as well as its myriad shadings of spices and flowers. This is what I meant by Grand Cru before - and Amoureuses is one of a handful of Premier Crus that got senselessly shafted when the Cote d'Or was classified.

900 NIS.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Very Syrah Weekend (Feb. 10-11, 2017)

The young turks of the wine scene had a great initiative, Syrah Week, with participating restaurants offering wines made of the world's second greatest red grape* on special wine lists. The prices looked good, but one wine on offer was particularly appealing. The price for the Allemande Reynard was so cheap it was like the wine just fell off the truck or something. I made reservations to Yaffo Tel Aviv, just to get my hands (and mouth) around it. The other wines written up here were just us drinking at home, in the spirit of Syrah Week.

* Pinot Noir is the perennial first place, blue ribbon holder -  Bordeaux lovers are invited to sit on it.

Domaine August Clape, Cornas, 2007

This is one of the two household names out of Cornas, Thierry Allemand being the other. It's a very robust wine, and I'm not just referring to its powerful presence, but also to the healthy purity of the fruit, balanced by rusty tannins and fresh acidity, carried on to great length with zero palate fatigue. The nose is very definitive as well, black fruit, black pepper, black olives. I just wish this were more complex and a little wilder.


Thierry Allemande, Cornas, Reynard, 2013

The real deal. If the Clape is putting on your bowtie to go play the grand piano, this is courting the voodoo doctor in the swamp. The nose shows the wildling character of the appellation: iron, blood, pepper, raw meat, a hint of scorched land. The palate is just as wild, with rusty tannins that echo the untameability of old school Cornas. Still raw and grumbling, yet with depths of flavors, pleasure and expression.

Imported by Eldad Levi, 360 NIS at a special price at Yaffo Tel Aviv (almost 50% off the regular price of 700 NIS). I chased the sommelier for another bottle, like a junkie begging his dealer for another fix - but that was the last bottle.

Alain Graillot, Saint Joseph, 2011

Graillot makes great Syrah in a style wildly different than the two Cornas wines, a style often dubbed Burgundian for the lush softness of fruit (although the languid, fleshy fruit has no parallel in Bourgogne, really). He is a master of Crozes-Hermitage, just about the greatest producer in that backwater (his son Maxim a close second, judging by the single bottle I tasted). Oddly enough, his Saint Joseph was always priced higher than the straight Crozes (although the premium Crozes cuvee, the Guiraude was priced higher than both), even though by many accounts it has less cellaring potential. At least in Israel, that is no longer the case, thanks to Wine Route's wily pricing schemes.

I believe the wine is more tannic and ageworthy nowadays, without losing sight of the qualities of style, which I expounded on above, that made Graillot's wines so special and dear to me. It's drinking nicely now and could easily drink just as nicely past ten or fifteen years of age. It, too, is branded with iron and black pepper, closer aromatically to the Allemande than to the Clape, but it thrives on juicy acidity rather than on tannins, with a salty/sour finish that is very food friendly.

Wine Route, 210 NIS.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Jan. 2017)

Tzora Vineyards, Shoresh, Blanc, 2015

A wine that always teases with the tension between chalk and tropical fruit, what makes it one of Israel's best is the sheer physical presence on the palate, multi-layered and complex, distinctly flavorsome, all the while remaining fleet and tense. (Jan. 4, 2017)

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Rouge, 2014

A local classic that reached the top tier of the local reds once Ido Lewinsohn turned it into a Petite Sirah/Carginan/Syrah blend a few years ago, this, as well as other recent vintages, is styled with the same vivid freshness as an excellent North Rhone. The craftsmanship indulges in clean purity that really respects the fruit and highlights a succulent figure as well as peppery, meaty aromas. Lovely. (Jan. 5, 2017)

150 NIS.

Feldstein, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, 2014

This shows a mineral facet every time I drink it, but, if initially that facet was all flint, today, with this bottle, it is a rockier, grainier, sunburned minerality, and more complex for that. In other words, it now strikes me as more Pouilly-Fume than Graves. (Jan. 6, 2017)

172 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher, Riesling Feinherb, 2015

For a producer whose output is so minuscule it has garnered him cult status, Willi Schaefer makes two wines whose easy price belies their moreish quality. One is the Estate Trocken, which I wrote about last month, and then, there is this, which could easily fool a blind taster into calling it a Kabinett. Still almost painfully young, it provides a tensile, electric backbone and affable aromas of green apples laced and speckled with minerals. (Jan. 7, 2017)

Eldad Levy, 99 NIS.

Château de Targe, Saumur-Champigny, 2014

A fresh, young red that is more pleasurable than some of the more expensive, mature Loire reds that I've tried this year. It's a quiet wine, with pretty red fruit and a modicum of earthy complexity and length - and savory tannins that remind one that tannins should be the dressing, not the salad. (Jan. 8, 2017).

Wine Route, 130 NIS.

Luis Pato, Vinhas Velhas, 2013

The Pato whites that I've tasted, based on indigent Portugese grapes Bical and Cecreal, strike a balance of minerals and herbs, which is a generic description, and what it doesn't carry across is that these minerals and herbs have a unique stamp of character you don't get elsewhere. Here for example, I get a whiff of peas and mint that recalls a Gruner, although there is a subtle exotic nuance as well, the sum of the parts making for a combination I don't find elsewhere and which keeps my nose buried in the glass. The body marries a hint of sweetness with focused acidity (both of which also hint at the exotic), making a special, very worthy wine of great value for money. (Jan. 16, 2017)

83 NIS.

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vinha Formal, 2013

This the Velhas' sibling, heavier on the Bical in the blend, its exotic character so infused with dry grass and flint that it comes off as a Mardi Gras version of Chassagne. (Jan. 18, 2017)

139 NIS.

You can find both Porto Restaurant and Wine Bar at Tshernichosky 6.

Recanati, Reserve, Wild Carignan, 2013

I was disappointed with the lack of structure in my last bottle, but this is better, a very handsome showing: the sweet fruit a bit rambling on the palate, yet aptly supported by its acidity (well, aptly for the first hour, then I would say the acidity forces the fruit to hang on for dear life, which works, simply because the fruit is so substantial). The sliver linings here are a piercing note halfway between iron, lead pencil and iodine and a wild herbaceousness that my idle mind scans as bushes trying to suck up the dry bedrock. If you wanted to make a case for the fertile wine industry percolating under the surface in Israel, despite the odds, you just need to serve a flight of the Recanati, Vitkin and Feldstein Carignans: each highlighting a wildly different aspect of the grape and land. (Jan. 19, 2017)

149 NIS.

Marie et Paul Jacqueson, Rully Premier Cru, Margotes, 2014

The Jacqueson domaine produces several excellent, honest wines from south of the Cote d'Or. The standouts, I think, are their whites. I loved the 2011's a couple of years ago. It seems Giaconda have brought in the 2014's by now, although I had no idea, as their site has stopped publishing inventory or prices. That's just crappy service. I'm tempted to say crappy marketing as well, but I don't deny their business acumen and I'm certain they still sell well to their crowd. Whatever, this is worth a visit to their store on Frishman Street in Tel Aviv. It's that good a wine. This comes off as a young, limber Chassagne, laden with minerals and apple skins. It's already detailed and nuanced on the nose, but, despite the fairly long, saline finish and the power of the fruit, the palate is still too broadly delineated, and well in need of the fine tuning in the cellar. Damn good. (Jan. 21, 2017)

This used to cost 150 NIS. For the reasons I've detailed above, I have no idea what the current retail price is. We had this at Yaffo Tel Aviv, where it's listed at 280 NIS, so it could cost anything from 140 to 180 NIS, thus good to excellent value within this price band.

Since Giaconda don't list prices, I'm not going to link to their site. You know they're the importer and if you buy wines in Israel, you know how to find them. If you want to read about the domaine, on the other hand, go here.

Domaine Vincent Paris, Cornas, Granit 30, 2014

I've written about about Vincent Paris and his wines and I surely don't want to overstay my welcome, so I would like to write something new, or at least point out pertinent data points about the Granit 30's evolution: I think that now its fleshy fruit and ripe acidity make it lither, yet somehow more structured, than it was in the past. You know, Cornas was tagged as the burly appellation in the past, say twenty years ago, the rusty wine that needed years to soften. This is modern in its hygiene and accessibility, but retains all the qualities that makes us love a North Rhone wine in its plateau: the violets, the black pepper, the hints of bacon, the depth of the languid-yet-structured fruit. (Jan. 21, 2017)

Fat Guy, 199 NIS.

Mia Luce, Rosso, 2014

The 2015 is a brilliant Israeli Syrah, but this is excellent as well. In a way, its rustic charms may be even more attractive, with an earthy nose reminiscent of sculptor clay, the requisite black pepper and ripe, supple fruit that thrives on its acidity and dusty tannins. (Jan. 22, 2017)

Lahat, Red, 2014

Why can't we all just get along? Just like the Syrah and Cabernet in this blend, that make a lovely aromatic harmony out of black pepper and herbs. And red fruit - I still pause for thought when local red wines steer away from the black and blue end of the spectrum. Very moreish. (Jan. 24, 2017)

About 150 NIS.

Rizzi, Barbaresco, Rizzi, 2013

Rizzi is a small family estate in Barbaresco. Rizzi is also the name of the estate's entry level Barbaresco - a blend of various crus - that I broached as soon as I scored a bottle. It's approachable, alright, as the youthful tannnns add a rusty flavoring, as opposed to blocking the fruit. The enjoyment factor comes from the Nebbiolo accents: the tarry/dusty aromas and those rusty tannins. There's a light vein of rose petal aromas that should gain definition in time and lend greater complexity to the wine. Let's say it needs five years or so. (Jan. 28, 2017)

Bouchard Père et Fils, Montagny Premier Cru, 2015

Premier Cru sounds impressive, until you find out that all the Montagny vineyards are classified as premier cru. Plus, it's the Cote Chalonaise, so I suspect the classification is overvalued. It's a tasty wine, though, tart apples nicely cloaked by flint and chalk. But of only modicum excitement. (Jan. 29, 2015)

Wine Route, 125 NIS.