Every country has its signature grape(s) - Touriga Nacional in Portugal's case - and some also have a list of indigenous grapes that no one outside the country seems to have heard of. Just about every grape grown in Portugal seems to be a mystery outside of the country, especially their whites. The Vinha Formal is made of such grapes, comprised as it is of 85% Bical and 15% Cerceal. It's hard to get my head around the aromatic and flavor profile of this wine. It smells lightly oxidized and nutty, but it could be the character of the fruit and not a fault and anyway it doesn't taste oxidized. There's also something earthy and herbal going on here. When I drank the 2013, I called it garrigue. Ah, yes, 2013 was the last vintage imported and a year later we have the 2012. Go figure. (Dec. 2, 2017)
Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vinha Formal, 2010
This is the sparkling rose that Pato makes from the Formal vineyard and it's dominated by Touriga Nacional. I can't find a good reference point for this. It's a wonder, but it's really a "love it or hate it" wonder thing. It smells light a light Iberian red, earthy, slightly meaty, pungent. It's very savory and funky and it's totally unlike Champagne. In fact, it's so funky that if you pour it next to a Champagne, then Champagne is likely to run off to cry to its mommy. (Dec. 13, 2017)
Quinta de Saes (Alvaro Castro), Dão, Reserva, 2013
A field blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Alfro-Cheiro and others, the profile is typical of the wines Eyal carries. The nose is pungently spicy and floral and that clash of spices and flowers defines the wine. The palate is long and fresh, with felicious softness, and although it is not especially complex, this is my favorite Castro red so far. (Dec. 9, 2017)
Eyal Mermelstein (Tchernichovsky)
Salomon, Kremstal, Undhof, Kogl, Erste Lage, 2014
A wine I used to drink more of, this is a very useful bistro wine. We had with dinner at Milgo and Milbar, whose dishes are very complex and rich and it went well with everything from anchovy focaccia to crab-meat and shirimp paste. It has the same icy veneer of slate that I love in the Mosel, but the dill and spices and the dry finish is all Austria. (Dec. 8, 2017)
Fat Guy, about 130 NIS.
A. Margaine, Le Brut, Villers-Marmery Premier Cru, n.v.
Villers-Marmery is an anomaly in the Motagne de Reims district of Champagne, being an island of Chardonnay on a sea of Pinot Noir. Le Brut, formerly known as Traditionelle, is about 90% Chardonnay. It's comprised of a large portion of reserve wines, the most recent vintage taking up a just little over half the blend, which is a rare proportion for a small grower. The basic character is of ripe fruit, the ripeness providing a full body rather than sweetness, but that body is framed by a sharp cut and a chalky texture and counterpointed by a saline finish. So it makes for an appealing mix of that fruity forwardness and that mineral-laden backbone, a touch of plump fat and chalk/mushrooms notes. (Dec. 12, 2017)
Fat Guy, 229 NIS.
Girolamo Russo, Etna, a Rina, 2014
This is only the second producer I've tried so far from trendy Etna in Sicily. The wine is comprised of 98% Nerello Mascalese and 2% Nerello Cappuccio, sourced from the San Lorenzo, Feudo, and Calderara Sottana vineyards and is the winery's entry level red. The nose is very pretty and intriguing; there are earthy, floral and tarry elements, but they're not easily broken down to discrete components. I just enjoy the interplay and the complexity. The palate is dominated by cherries and bitter tannins and needs air. The other Etna producer I know is the arguably more famous Terre Nere and I think this is the better entry level red. Let me be a little more forward: this is wonderful and I can only imagine what the single vineyards are like. (Dec. 15, 2017)
Sphera, White Signature, 2016
This year, the flagship wine is 75% Semillon and 25% Chardonnay. I'm glad Semillon was chosen to be the featured grape this year because I generally love how it performs in Israel. I have fond memories of the Semillon Doron Rav Hon produced in his tenure in Ella Valley. Having said that, while this wine was blooming and mineral-laden when I drank it two months ago, it is starting to shut down now, so it shows more honey and only hints at minerals. (Dec. 17, 2017)
Domaine Denis Berthaut, Fixin, Les Clos, 2013
I know Amelie Berthaut is highly regarded, and by people whose opinions I highly regard, yet for some reason, while I liked the basic Bourgogne and Fixin, this is the first time I've fancied either of the village lieux-dits imported locally. This is soft and sensual, fresh red fruit decorated by clay, earth and a pungent, vegetal herbaceous which fits in without being too prominent and completes a fairly complex aromatic tapestry, with a sauvage personality that nods at neighboring Gevrey. And the palate. We talk about how acidity provides structure, but we sometimes forget it also lends tasty sour/tart flavors, as is the case here. (Dec. 21, 2017)
Bourgogne Crown, 189 NIS.
Feldstein, Gilgamesh, 2014
This Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Argaman and Viognier blend is probably Avi's friendliest wine, but that doesn't mean it's not a very interesting wine to dissect and examine. Its primary selling point - and this is the only aid you need to fix Gilgamesh's fingerprint in your memory - is that juicy acidity that anchors the black fruit and gives form to what could have otherwise been a too lush a texture. (Dec. 23, 2017)
Hudelot-Noellet, Chambolle-Musigny, 2014
Chambolle is the easiest Burgundy town to write about. You don't have to verbalize or explain sauvage, as in Gevrey; you don't have to extol the charm of the exotic spices as in Vosne; you needn't discuss the rusticity of Nuits; or compare the so-called femininity of Volnay with the iron-like muscularity of Pommard. All you have to do, with Chambolle, is mention flowers. But, although the flowers are a very useful tip in blind tastings, they only get you through the first sentence or so of the tasting note. Because the Burgundy villages are never defined by just a single characteristic and you always have to grasp for more nuances. Thus, the Hudelot-Noellet does get you with flowers before you start to notice forest floor and spices - but throughout, it is about those flowers and how they make a young Chambolle so fresh, fluid and irresistible. (Dec. 30, 2017)
Bourgogne Crown, 270 NIS.
Gaston Chiquet, Brut Blanc de Blancs D’Aÿ, n.v.
This is usually a vintage Champagne sold as non-vintage for legal reasons. This bottle was disgorged in July 2015 so this is probably 2012, or at the very least 2012-based. This is a pure Chardonnay from the Pinot stronghold that is the Grand Cru village of Aÿ. It's not very complex or weighty, but it makes up for that with its purity and pinpoint focus. It's not a brioche and mushroom style of Champagne, rather the aromas and flavors are all about wet stones, baked apples, citrus fruit and flowers. (Dec. 31, 2017)
Fat Guy, about 250 NIS.
Weingut Wittmann, Rheinhessen, Westhofener Morstein, Riesling Auslese, 2009
Unctuous and hedonistic, almost to the point that the sugar overwhelms the acidity. I don't think it will shed its baby fat in the next decade so you might as well open it now and enjoy it as liquid toffee. And great liquid toffee it is. (Dec. 31, 2017)