Friday, December 19, 2014

The Giaconda Beaujolais

Now you know I just love Beaujolais, right?

I wrote a post about George Descombes when I brought a batch over from Paris. I posted when Wine Route started importing Georges Dubeouf to Israel and I'm especially proud of my piece about the Beaujolais Cru portion of the Tomer Gal portfolio.

Now I write about the Giaconda foray into the fiefdom of the Gamay grape, a.k.a. the hunting ground for excellent, interesting, well priced wines.

Roland Pignard, Régnié, 2011 

Even in a perfect world where Beaujolais Cru is a household word, I expect most consumers would gyrate towards the better known AOCs: Morgon, Moulin A Vent, Fleurie, Brouilly even. Regnie would register a "what the?" reaction. I've only had one before, Charly Thevenet's rendition, which is great. This is a different animal. This an earthy, herbal affair with fresh red fruit, quite tasty, with initially timid tannins that grow more forceful. It's akin to a pretty, lower tier Cote d'Or red, with a plumper, yet rougher build, and without much of the airy, heady intoxication that even a lowly Bourgogne from a good producer often provides. (Dec. 1, 2014)

120 NIS.

So the Pignard is nice, but with the following producer, Giaconda picked out a pair of winners!

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

This, of course, is from the more widely known Morgon (which probably accounts for 80% of all Beaujolais Cru imported to Israel). Not only that, it's from the more highly regarded Cute du Py sub-appellation. The sensual appeal is more immediate and intense, as the wine quickly registers that earthy, juicy impact created by a very good Gamay wine. It's meaty smelling, too - like a good Nuits-St.-Georges - the tannins meatier as well, compared to the Pignard, and savory and saline. On the other hand, the fruit is languid, so it's both meaty and languid. And very, very good, on par with Foillard and Thevenet, the kind of wine that builds up in glass, strips, teases, unfolds and seduces. (Dec. 4, 2014)

120 NIS.

Potel-Aviron, Morgon, Moulin A Vent, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

This is more reticent than the Morgon, although its relative silence is not enough to hide its qualities. It's arguably finer and more floral, while still projecting the same fresh, languid core of fruit, as well as fetching salinity. The Potel-Aviron Beaujolais Crus are both in need of time, but while the Morgon could use a year or two to gain more refinement and clarity, for the Moulin A Vent it would be time well spent in fleshing out the details and nuances.  (Dec. 5, 2014)

130 NIS.

Well, that was fun. Thank you, Giaconda.

Now, some observations about Beaujolais Cru in general.

One. It's easy, if not tempting, to call Gamay a country cousin of Pinot Noir. But it's not that the wine are much less refined, so much as different: it's like God took a Cote d'Or cru halfway between village and premier and grilled it as opposed to slow cooking it.

Two. The local imports are of such high quality (and we're still not getting any Clos de la Roilette, Guy Breton or Jacky Janodet, so there's still room for improvement) that I'm just about  in tears. Along with the local Loire reds, someone like me finally has ample choices for house wines.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2014)

Domaine des Rémizières, Hermitage, Cuvée Émilie, 2004

The initial face of the wine was stewed and flat, so I was thinking, this doesn't seem like a great vintage for Cuvée Émilie. But then the stingy bastard starts putting out, giving iron, black pepper, bacon, with lithe fruit sculpted by etched tannins - and basically showing the elegant side of mature Syrah. It's a little shallow, though, so maybe it really isn't a great vintage for Cuvée Émilie, at that. (Nov. 1, 2014)

29.99 USD, instead of 65.99.

Charly is doing his old man proud
Charly Thevenet, Régnié, Grain & Granit, 2012

This is brilliantly fun and tasty - probably better than any vintage of Lapierre Morgon I've tasted, just to put the quality in context - with complex earthiness and juicy, savory fruit. As well, there's dash of raw meat and spices. (Nov. 4, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 120 NIS.

Man, I've been drinking the father's wines for almost four years now!

Jean-Paul Thevenet, Morgon, Vieilles Vignes, 2012

This is a more sombre, nuanced wine, and, what's more, a good bottle, which I have to say is an iffy proposition for pere Thevenet. But when his wines are good, such as this surely is, they sure are deep and trenchant. This has subtle, fresh strawberry fruit, with almost Pinot-ish spices, and the same lean angularity, soft and inviting at the same time, as the defunct Rene Engel or the very much alive Maison Romane. (Nov. 6, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

A great Champagne we opened for a family dinner as an early celebration of Efrat's birthday.

Vilmart & Cie, Cuvee Rubis, n.v.

This is one of my favorite Champagnes, probably the best non-vintage available in Israel, easily on par with any excellent vintage Champagne. It has the lush, yet at the same time lean, expressiveness of a Bourgogne Grand Cru, earthy, supple and spicy - married to the mushrooms and brioche of Champagne. (Nov. 7, 2014)

Fat Guy, 259 NIS.

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

Oh, my! The Aligotes in Daniel's catalog are about Bourgogne as much as they are about the grape. So this beauty decorates the salty lime of the variety with the funky flint and dry grass we purists love about the Cote de Beaune village whites. Salivating. (Nov. 8, 2014)

Bourgogne Crown, 120 NIS.

Tzora, Judean Hills, Blanc, 2013

This Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc blend has a pretty tropical/floral element in the background, but other than that is all about smoky minerals,a la Puilly-Fume. Yummy. (Nov. 10, 2014)

About 90 NIS.

Vitkin, Israeli Journey Red, 2012

Really surprising. A nose redolent with minerals, a hint of smoke, sweet currants. A deliciously saline finish. (Nov. 12, 2014)

Luciano Sandrone, Barbera d'Alba, 2010

I never liked the label, so I was putting off opening the bottle. And the dark color upon pouring immediately alarmed me. And the initial aromas are modernly styled. But there's a nice mineral/leathery tint on the nose, and friendly warmth in the mouth. (Nov. 13, 2014)

Wine Route, 170 NIS.

Midbar Winery, Semillon, 2009

I was offered a taste at Wine Depot, and was wowed. I've always been a fan of this wine, Yaacov Oryah's baby, so much so that I went through my stash within a couple of years. Yaacov told me to wait and he was right, because the aromatics are so funky and complex now. (Nov. 14, 2014)

Delas, Cornas, Chante-Perdrix, 2005

Delas has been slipping under the radar for years, both locally and, from what I've read, abroad. But I've enjoyed the few mature bottles I've encountered, and so purchased this on a whim and opened the same day. Interesting, Not great, but interesting, and of course it's always fun to drink a relatively mature Rhone. There's plenty of the requisite black pepper on the nose, and a herbal note that is distracting at times, but not enough punch and power to play in the major leagues. I mean, the complexity is decent, but it feels like faded. (Nov. 14, 2014)

349 NIS. A high price considering not only the quality and the alternatives, but the fact that hardly anyone buys Delas in Israel any more.

Domaine William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2007

Excellent, one of the best Fevre GC's I've had. I could list the various marine descriptors, but that's grown very old already. So I'll just note that they interplay with complex and deep citrus fruit in a manner that is funky and slightly dirty, yet clear and focused at the same time. Which elevates the wine and the experience even beyond the breed displayed by the long, saline finish. (Nov. 15, 2014)

Wine Route, I suppose it's in the mid 300 NIS range, although I probably - hopefully! - managed to pay less.

Produttori del Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, 2012

An unflashy, straightforward. lithe and light rendition of old school Nebbiolo. Floral, dusty and mouth cleaning, perfumed with a enough details and nuances to keep me on my feet. A style I really appreciate. (Nov. 21, 2014)

Wine Route, 120 NIS.

Jean Foillard, Morgon, Cote du Py, 2011

I saved the best of my recent Beaujolais splurge for last (of course, I've had this before, and will again). This has the perfumed, invigorating minerals cum sous bois that always suckers me with similarly lithe Bourgognes. This is precise, concise and tasty, with understated complexity and charming fruity vinosity. Bitchin'! (Nov. 22, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 140 NIS.

Vitkin, Carignan, 2010

Assaf Paz did an excellent job here! The nose is varietally typical, ie. ripe and spicy, but aptly tamed, with a hint of garrigue; while the fruit has juicy acidity producing a salivating and velvety effect. This shows what I think of as languid warmth, exactly what I look for in Mediterranean wines. (Nov. 23, 2014)

Domaine Huet, Vouvray, Le Haut-Lieu, Demi-Sec, 2009

Yowsah, once again! A complex, smoky nose, with apricots, orange peels and roasted cashews. The palate echoes these aromas and serves up a balanced cocktail of sweet and bitter flavors. There's a density of fruit that's only obvious by deduction, once you realize something is totally obscuring the 14% ABV. That probably also explains why the acidity is only obvious as a quite pleasing sourness on the finish. This is not sublime or great, simply an excellent source of pleasure. (Nov. 29, 2014)

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thanksgiving (Nov. 27, 2014)

Perhaps my wine year should end at Thanksgiving, the better to enumerate the wonders and discoveries of the passing year. And thank the people who made the wines I savored, the people who imported them and the people sold them.

And, war and all, 2014 was fun! I suffered through work, only to dance through my wines.

Blaufrankisch, the red grape of Austria and the next king of the world. At the hands of Moric, the funnest wine ever!

Michel Redde, fantastic Pouilly-Fume artist, long may he prosper and remain under the radar.

2014 was the year that Daniel Lifshitz' portfolio really exploded. While I had already gotten acquainted with the bigger names in 2013, in 2014 I discovered Guyot, Bizot and, most unlikely of all, Domaine Ballorin, the lovechild of a young couple who bought up parcels in the backwaters of the Cote d'Or's, in villages I'd bet my last Cuvee Rubis you've never even heard of. Their Cote de Nuits Villages, from a vineyard in Comblanchien, was perhaps the best surprise of the year.

The perfect Scheurebe, drunk in the most beautiful guesthouse ever: Andreas Laible, Baden, Durbacher Plauerlain, Scheurebe Spatlese, Erste Lages, 2013.

Tzora, Shoresh, which was likely the best local white wine sold in Israel. Coming in second on my annual list, careening wildly with the most idiosyncratic style produced locally, the Askar, Iqrit, Sauvignon Blanc.

Lallament was the star in the firmament of what turned out to be the year my love for Champagne fully erupted. And when I can't afford the real thing, my favorite 'expatriat'e sparkler has become the Tissot, Blanc de Blanc Cleve en Fue.

Halutzim 3, my favorite place to drink all of the above. And many more. Naama and Eitan, you rock!

And, of course, as another year passes, more and more wines in my collection mature. To wit. Hmmmm, how should I put it? The best GG experience of the year?

Schäfer-Fröhlich, Nahe, Bockenauer Felseneck, Großes Gewächs, Riesling , 2008 

A crystalline expression of the purity of Riesling. As complex as this is (and it is - in time it's beguilingly, movingly, complex), its trump card is terroir laser-focused through depth of fruit, with smoky aromas of red apples, pink grapefruit and decisive sweet/saline flavors, backed by acidity that whispers "hello, I'm ginger". This is regal and aloof in the classic Old World sense, yet shows the vigor of a young adult out to conquer the universe.

Giaconda,  320 NIS.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Champagne Time (Nov. 23, 2014)

Incredibly, Margaine still slips beneath the radar!
 A. Margaine, Special Club, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Premier Cru, 2004

There was no de facto special reason, no obvious occasion, to open a classy Champagne on a weekday, but a week of reading through Michael Edwards' Finest Wines Of Champagne had quite obviously whetted my appetite. So I made the occasion. Or, should I say, the wine made the occasion. Someone should just invent a Festivus for wine geeks, no? This is still incredibly fresh and vibrant, full of zesty complexity, with expressive aromas of citrus fruit, roasted walnuts and sauteed mushrooms and combines mature Champagne vinosity with fresh vibrancy. Delightful. Classy. Tasty.

Eldad Levy, 329 NIS at the time, 2006 vintage is 345.

As for the book itself: very informative and the tasting notes are highly enjoyable, and I'm struck by the incredible numbers of growers and houses the book lists, producing what is, to me, an almost inconceivable number of bottles. The only drawback is that criticism comes in a very polite, diplomatic British tone. Imagine Hugh Johnson sans the barbed, dry wit.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Two Of Us (Nov. 2, 2014)

If celebrating the twentieth anniversary of our first date isn't an occasion to open a Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle, then I don't know what is. It might have been more appropriate to actually have opened it on the signature date, and I would have enjoyed more rock and roll, but still, you can't get more celebratory than a bottle of Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Riesling Spätlese, 2006

Donnhoff wines usually display meticulous precision, and of course Hermannshöhle is the estate's flagship vineyard, but this is not a perfect wine, nor is it a great one. I was going to write it off as a tapestry in need of a restoration, because there's obvious class and  breed here, but little jism. However, once it gets an hour of air and more, the vibrancy I'd expect comes to the forefront and the bottle shows aromatics that are kinky and interesting, dominated by green tea and sugared apples, with hints of broth, chalk and kerosene. The palate is tasty, its ripeness tempered by a tantalizing, savory finish - but there isn't a great deal of complexity there, I have to reach for the wine, it doesn't come to me, and I am only certain I find something towards the very end.

So the earth didn't move, but perhaps this specific incarnation of Hermannshöhle proves that life goes on while you're busy making other plans.

Giaconda, 270 NIS.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Taking Care Of Business (Oct. 2014)

Oh, is October over already?

Weninger, Mittleburgenland Reserve, Blaufränkisch, Alte Reben , 2007

Weninger rates four stars in the Austria chapter of Hugh John's Wine Pocketbook, and I've yet to understand why, after tasting and drinking through three bottles, including this one. After seven years, the oak is still obvious, and while it's not awful, the final effect is one-dimensional and too eager to impress. failing at even producing superficial flash. I'll just wait until Eldad Levy starts to import Moric, I guess. (Oct. 1, 2014)

About 25 Euros.

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, 2011

The initial impression of olive brine quickly resolves into typical fresh Syrah fruit with trappings of black pepper and raw meat. The palate, while still nubile, offers a savory mix of acidity and salinity. Like the 2011 Saint Joseph, this could use three years or so. (Oct. 3, 2014)

WineRoute, about 200 NIS these days.

Gunderloch, Rheinhesses, Nackenheim Rothenberg, Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2007

Got it now: seven years is the sweet spot for GG's. This smells and tastes like someone poured grapefruit and apple juice inside an oyster shell. There's only fair complexity here, but great purity and breed. (Oct. 4, 2014)

Giaconda, 260 NIS.

Weingut Ralf Trautwein, Baden Kaiserstuhl, Spatburgender Kabinett Trocken, 2011

This is the only Spatburgender I brought back from Germany this summer, and the reason is I really enjoyed its light, lithe frame, making me think I should seek my Teutonic Pinot pleasures at the Kabinett level. This comes off as reminiscent  of the colder areas of the Cote de Nuits, perhaps Marsannay or a feminine NSG. Except that, where a fine Bourgogne caresses you on the finish with the famous peacock feather effect, this will make you sit down to do your homework before you frolic off to have your fun. (Oct. 5, 2014)

25 Euros.

Christian Moreau, Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur, 2007

Cool. A bottle that I forgot to enter into Cellar Tracker and found in the fridge. The nose is typical of what attracts me to excellent Burgundies - minerals,  apples, citrus peel, a hint of baked spiciness - and a touch of pungent, salt flecked beach sand that is trademark Chablis. The palate shows sweet-sours apples framed by salt and dust, and the granny apples persist on the finish. Very good, excellent at spots, but not great. (Oct. 7, 2014)

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Spätlese * trocken , 2012

A Giacometti sculpture made of apples and granite. (Oct. 9, 2014)

Fat Guy, 169 NIS.

Segal, Unfiltered, 2008

Earthy red and black fruit, with a light note of vanilla, that is very typical of Avi Feldstein's at Segal. Quite tasty and balanced, very Israeli, without any overhanded oak. Good job. (Oct. 11, 2014)

220 NIS.

Recanati, Reserve, Merlot, Manara Vineyard, 2011

This is a delightful local version of Merlot, with a unique herbal/earthy fingerprint. It really is too young, right now, with traces of oak on the nose and dusty tannins, but I enjoyed it. (Oct. 13, 2014)

About 110 NIS.

Reinhold Haart, Mosel, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2012

One of the few times where I could just quote my previous note: "The nose is complex and ever morphing, almost Sauvignon Blanc like with its grassy and tropical (guayavas) notes and minerals, while the palate is pure Riesling: sweet, yet racy, with fine grip and structure, and excellent length driven by green apple acidity. A memorable, lightly funky character." (Oct. 14, 2014)

Fat Guy, 139 NIS.

Dopf Au Moulin, Schoenenbourg Grand Cru, Riesling, 2010

A very fine Grand Cru that could seduce me into buying more Alsace Rieslings. Or at least, more Dopf Au Moulin Schoenenbourgs, assuming it was imported without a huge markup and assuming it improves with age. Mineral lead, with apples and quince and terrific acidity. (Oct. 17, 2014)

About 30 Euros at the winery.

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

A complex and intense display of iodine and minerals, pungent and convincing, with a deep foundation of citrus fruit and major league salinity. (Oct. 18, 2014)

Giaconda, 320 NIS.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kallstadter Saumagen, Riesling Auslese trocken, 2005

I was bound to eventually find a decent Koehler-Ruprecht. Maybe it's due to the qualities of the vintage. I was just discussing my bad luck with K-R with a friend the other day. I told him they don't age and he said maybe my taste had changed over the last seven-eight years. Well, this bottle proves it's a little of both. While I prefer my Rieslings more vibrant, this has matured relatively well (even if not exactly what you'd expect from a nine year old Auslese) and offers a subtle minerality and really unique aromatics, one that offers an almost obscene quotient of kerosene. And yet, not particularly fresh. (Oct. 22, 2014)

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

Elio Altare, Barolo Vigneto Arborina, 1999

I deserved an expensive wine after a hard week. I'd heard this was fairly modern, and I think it is, and marked by oak, but it also has an undeniable affinity with the classic mold, with red and black fruit spearheaded by that telltale spicy/dusty nose that nods at garrigue. I believe the tannins will remain dry forever, but the aromatics are just great, deep and complex. This needs a cow. (Oct. 23, 2014)

Wine Route, I believe about 350 NIS.

Francois Raveneau, Chablis, 2010

I bought this because, having grown frustrated at the scarcity of Raveneau and Dauvissat in Israel (which basically means I'm very low in the pecking order and other customers have an on-going permanent allocation), I wound up begging the importer to let me have at least one bottle of the village bottling. And it's not an inexpensive bottle, but as good as other producer's premier crus, I'll give it that, so I won't complain about the price. It's quite typical of all good things Chablis, with pungent marine/oyster-shell aromatics and palate that feels fuller than it probably is in actuality, with fruit halfway between apples and lime. (Oct. 24, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 250 NIS.

Recanati, Reserve, Syrah-Viognier, 2011

Last year, I thought the 2011 was too low in acidity for my tastes, and it still is, but nonetheless, the two previous vintages were so much my Israeli  wine mistresses that I'm still willing to give this the benefit of a doubt. And so, yeah, my objections stands, but the peppery/smoky/funky nose is still such a Syrah poster child and some nuances do manage to get through the barrier of the low acidity. And, after a couple of hours, I start to get a feel where this might wind up in a couple of years. (Oct. 26, 2014)

140 NIS.

Georges Descombes, Fleurie, Vieilles Vignes, 2010

This is quite earthy and sulking, red fruits with soft tannins akin to Pinot, yet without the silken envelope of the Cote d'Or. I enjoy tracking the nuances that emerge: clay, flowers. (Oct. 28, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Comte Armand, Auxey-Duresses, 2011

I usually prefer the vegetal aspects of Bourgogne to show prominence: flowers, sous de bois, spices. Comte Armand, I've found, is more about iron, Clos des Epeneaux being the quintessential showcase of the house style - although the signature shows even in the lesser, lighter, softer wines, such as this. Sometimes I suspect the house style may be forced upon lesser fruit, and I took that into account when I opened this bottle. I wanted to chew on Beaune rocks, and I got that, complemented, as it turned out, by red fruit and a touch of spices. Nothing earth shattering here, but I enjoyed and got exactly what I wanted. (Oct. 30, 2014)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 170 NIS.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Armchair Traveller Passing Through The Loire

The more I drink Loire reds and whites, the more I want to soak in everything this wonderful place has to offer.

Huet, Vouvray, Le Haut-Lieu, Demi Sec, 2009

This is superb, with an  almost outlandishly (and unexpectedly, I might add) funky nose that is equally toasty and mineral-laden, appropriately backed up by deep, pure apricot fruit. Good traits all, echoed on palate. I know the stuff can age, but this is so great right now, I think the only reason to wait is for further complexity to develop on the palate to match that already in place in the aromatics. (Sept. 27, 2014)

Giaconda, 170 NIS, a great value.

Michel Redde, Pouilly-Fumé , Les Champs des Billon, 2011

Every time I drink a Redde, I think, "wow, who would've thought Sauvignon Blanc could be so good!" This is still the most backward of the Redde wines imported to Israel, but there is already a lot of limey, smoky, rocky depth and a saline finish, that, if you have any love at all for classic French wines, will bewitch you within a few minutes. Any well made wine can keep, that is stay alive, for a few years, the question is will time actually evolve it? With Redde in general, and this wine specifically, I think there are stories waiting to be told. (Oct. 10, 2014)

Fat Guy, 259 NIS.

Yannic Amirault, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Le Mine, 2009

Yes! I finally located this misplaced bottle, this misplaced lovely bottle. Oh, it is a lovely drop indeed, and how highly you rate it will depend on how much you actually prize drinkability and taste, as opposed to, uh, all the other things tasters score wines for. With decently complex scents and flavors, raspberries laced laced with rust and tobacco leaves, this feels, amazingly enough (this being the entry level Saint-Nicolas in the Amirault portfolio), as though it needs more time. (Oct. 16, 2014)

About 20 GBP.

Chateau du Hureau, Saumur-Champigny, Fours a Chaux, 2010

Classic. An appetizing nose with black fruit, violets and lead pencil. The palate is fruity, soft and friendly yet chewy and savory. I really should have bought more, as it is delightfully fresh and a great value, drinking well now with an upside of a few years. (Oct. 20, 2014)

Fat Guy, 140 NIS.