Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Recanati - 2017 Releases

If local interest in wine writing extended beyond reviews, gossip and marketing promotions, I'd be interested in doing a story on the Recanati  Mediterranean series, Now, Mediterranean wines is a term I don't like much, but it will do as a shorthand for lithe, yet robust, wines suited to the local climate, based on grapes that can reach phenolic ripeness in Israel at palatable sugar levels.

How much did the borth of the series have to do with the inclinations the people involved (for what it's worth, the winemakers and management people that I personally know share the same tastes as me) and how much of it was a business decision to carve out a new identity and find a marketable niche? Does anyone besides me even care that much how a winery shifts its profile and its product line?

In Recanati's case, these questions are so interesting because the decisions the winery took have made them the most interesting outfit of its size in Israel - broadly speaking, if you want to drink interesting Israeli wines, there's a short list of boutique wineries and then an ever shorter list of medium sized outfits, like Recanati and Vitkin. The changes in the last decade extend even to the packaging; hell, I'd even say the labels of the Reserve series are among the top five best or so in Israel. *

* In case you're curious, in no special order: Recanati Reserve, Feldstein, Tzora.

So that's the buildup to my notes about the so called 'Mediterranean' Reserve series as well as the Special Reserves, that I bought pre-release in the Recanati summer event.

Reserve, Marsellan, 2015

I'm willing to concede Marselan is an actual Mediterranean grape. It's a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, first bred near the French town of Marseillan, which is actually on the Mediterranean coast. So yes, it's a Mediterranean grape.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it: "Marselan was bred by French ampelographer Paul Truel in 1961 at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) as part of a collaboration with the École nationale supérieure agronomique de Montpellier (ENSAM) to produce high yielding varieties with large berries of moderate quality. As Marselan could only produce small berries, the vine variety was shelved and considered not likely to be commercially released. But viticulture trends in the late 20th century that begun to value lower yielding varieties with good disease resistance to hazards like powdery mildew encouraged the INRA to revisit Marselan. The vine was submitted for approval for commercial release and was entered in the official register of grape varieties in 1990."

The history of wine making in the late 20th century in a nutshell.

Recanati makes a user and food friendly wine out of it, with fair complexity and  greater character and interest. With its black fruit trimmed with back pepper, herbs and dusty earth, it comes off as a Crozes-Hermitage transplanted to Vacqueyras. There's a warm, ripe breadth to it, but without the cheap ripeness that can be so off-putting with local Cabernets. (Mar. 4, 2017)

Reserve, Syrah, 2015

Calling Syrah a Mediterranean grape stretches the credibility of the concept, but I'm willing to concede it's a grape that can be suitable to to Israel, even if hasn't turned out to be the dominant force that ten years ago many expected it to become. The Recanati version went through a couple of production and marketing schemes before it was wedded to Viognier in a nod and a wink to Cote Rotie a few years ago. I loved the first couple of vintages, but the pair have since been divorced. The current vintage shows the succulent, peppery aspect of the grape. It's riper and less stellar than the version that Recanati winemaker Kobi Arviv makes. But then, that Syrah is one of the best ever made in Israel and is a testament to the skills of the Recanati winemakers and their employers' recruiting acumen. As for the wine under discussion, initially, the bitter tannins turned me off, but a very pretty purity of expressive fruit came out after a couple of hours. Wait and see, with optimism. (Mar. 5, 2017)

But I'll tell you what, though. Recanati's renaissance starts with, and hinges on, one wine, made from a grape that is as good a candidate as any to be our national grape. 

Reserve, Wild Carignan, 2015

This is always a deep wine that reveals its aromas and flavors reluctantly in its first couple of years, the 2015 especially so. What I get here at first is mostly a sense of warmth and a spicy/tannic mouthfeel. Then it finally offers up surprising aromatic complexity - not surprising for being complex, but rather because the aromas offer a gentle elegance I'd not found in previous vintages. Really, the Wild Carignan should live up to its name, but the 2015 defuses its punch with mellow blue fruits and wisps of black pepper. Wisps that become muscular strands as the wine shows its wild heart. (Mar. 16, 2017)

The Reserves are priced at 130-150 NIS (your mileage may vary) and you get a lot of quality fruit for the price. The price is in line with the price of many wineries' flagship wines and what you don't get for that price, thankfully, is histrionic helpings of oak.

The actual flagship wines, the Special Reserves, do cost more, of course.

Special Reserve, White, 2015 

This is a Rousanne/Marsanne blend, and I surprised myself for fancying this white Rhone combo at the launch. I guess these grapes do like the local landscape. There's not a huge level of acidity, but there is enough to support this rather fat, fleshy wine and the gently spicy punch on the finish. The spices also embellish the nose, which also features some chalk. Taste this alongside other local whites and it will show well; it probably won't finish first, but the results won't embarrass the people who made it and you'll be satisfied with the price (about 150 NIS). (Mar. 17, 2017)

Special Reserve, 2014

When Recanati started, and for a good part of the previous decade, this was your typical Israeli blend, Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot. Then along came Ido Lewinsohn, first, and then Gil Shatzberg, who replaced Lewis Pasco as main winemaker, and finally Koby Arviv - and little by little the blend changed. I noticed the change with the 2008 SR and wrote about it and then a wonderful thing happened. Some interchanges on an old wine forum led to a Recanati tasting event and I met Ido and that started a long, random chain of events that ended up with the group of friends I currently taste with. 

Recently, it's been a blend of Bordeaux and Mediterranean grapes, according to the winery's site. I'd guess that means Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Sirah and Carignan, in various permutations. This is a wine where you actually notice the oak. It's well handled, and the winemaking and barrels are both equally top notch, but it's there for now. Its aromatic and flavor profile reminds me of what Ido and Kobi do in their own boutique wineries: the freshness of the fruit, a welcome helping of black pepper, even a light streak of green. With that, I do sense a greater emphasis on sheen and gloss; which is not necessarily a bad thing and I'm not detracting the quality of the wine. Obviously the target audience is different from that of a boutique winery's, even if there is some overlap. The SR needs to acknowledge a great proportion of unhip buyers and naturally the team needs to be less adventurous, consciously or not. I'm trying to describe the effect, not criticize it. The quality of the wine would place it in the local top ten and you should buy it (for 200 NIS or whatever the release price is), if you haven't already, and then cellar it for at least three years (Mar. 18, 2017)

I want to close with off with an offhand note about a wine that we've been drinking casually at home for a while, the Jonathan, White, 2016. I'm not sure whether it replaces the old Yasmin series or cohabits the shelves, but this Chardonnay/French Colombard blend shows that quality control at the winery goes down all the way to the lower rungs. It's a light, fruity blend that won't blow you away but is very useful when you need to entertain a lot of friends and want to be able to enjoy yourself as well. This is where democracy wins.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Attack of the Killer Grenache - Vitkin, Early 2017

Time to check in, once more, on the winery that has always been located on the "road less traveled" part of the Israeli wine map - ever since the pioneer days when they were one of the first to break the paradigm of using Bordeaux grapes in Israel.

Grenache Blanc, 2014

A personal favorite, in my humble opinion already one of the top ten Israeli whites, this has an earthy character driven by tart acidity. Air fleshes it out (and I'm not ruling out that it should be served at a temperature close to that of a red wine, which is what I wound up doing and it worked for me) so that its lean frame is embroidered with nuanced flecks of bitter and savory flavors. The nose, while also austere, starts off with a nutty greenness and it, too, develops nicely, flaring into a bouquet flaunting an 'otherness', which I can't really break down meaningfully - perhaps something along the lines of chalk laced with sweet herbs and a hint of flowers, tobacco and iodine?  (Feb. 19, 2017)

The 2015 version is, at this point, more floral. I wish I could write more about the differences between the two vintages, but besides the year's worth of evolution, there's not much to tell them apart except for the greater clarity of the 2015 and a lither structure. I think the grape is comfortable in its new home. (Feb. 27, 2017)

125 NIS.

Israeli Journey, Rose, 2016

I prefer my roses so dry they could detox Keith Richards, and this more or less hits that sweet spot, with a wild freshness of fruit, almost floral, that is charmingly tempered and tamed by minerals. Assaf Paz says he thinks he finally nailed the formula, mostly Grenache with a modicum of Carignan. I agree. (Feb. 21, 2017)

70 NIS.

Grenache Noir, 2014

Grenache can easily go over the top and become too ripe, intense and candied. Assaf, however, confidently controls the grape and this wine just nods at that aspect with candied notes, but it also shows the same fresh wildness of fruit and flowers as did the Rose, as well as hints of raw meat. Most importantly, for any wine, but even more so for a grape so easily whored by producers prone to excess, this is a personable, very drinkable wine, with a raspy, yet savory finish adding plenty of jism. The label says "Collector Edition" and, while the wine is certainly special enough, it is no high octane trophy wine, just a wine that someone made because he wanted to do something different and so eased it into being, let the grape express its character without letting it get out of hand. (Mar. 3, 2017)

140 NIS. This is a terrific wine, really worth the price, showing, like the only other local Grenache that I know of (Feldstein), that the variety has great potential in Israel.

So that takes care of the various permutations of Grenache in the Vitkin portfolio. With that out of the way, let me finish with another example of how Vitkin does things differently. And yes, I know there are at least six other Israeli Rieslings, but Vitkin was there first.

Riesling, 2015

According to Cellar Tracker, the first Israeli Riesling was made by Golan Heights. Which I suppose makes Vitkin's inaugural vintage the first good local Riesling. But I quibble and anyway, making Riesling in Israel is always a leap of faith, on paper at least. I'm a classic German Riesling guy, also willing to accept their dry versions as well as those from Austria and, to a much lesser extent, from Alsace. While I appreciate the effort involved in making extraterritorial versions, you have to understand that I approach Rieslings from other regions with a very critical eye - uh, palate. This is a good wine. I think it brings a local touch. There's a certain herbal languor on the palate that I like, as well as bracing acidity and a healthy, cleansing salinity. The nose is fine, demure if not outright austere, showing lime and white fruit rather than apples (well, maybe some apples). I like it, and I'm happy I have another bottle to age, as well as a bottle of 2014, but I think it's a little short and the nose doesn't evoke the same thrill of discovery that the Grenache Blanc does. (Feb. 2017)

125 NIS.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The World Is My Oster (Feb. 23, 2017)

Getting ready for the Selbach tasting
The Selbach-Oster house is a masterful domain, even in Mosel, a region with no shortage of master artists. I was honored to participate in a tasting with Sigrid and Hanna Selbach.

Sekt, Brut, 2013

Sekts always torture me with montages of two of my big loves, German Riesling and Champagne. For example, this marries the complex, yeasty nose of a sparkling wine married to the light body of a Kabinett, showing citrus fruit, mushrooms and stone. 

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Kabinett, 2014

Even though this is relatively young and mute compared to the older Kabinetts that followed, this manages to show a charming nose of apples and pastry and cold slate, with a precise balance of fruit and acidity. The true measure of its lovely, evocative nose is evidenced when I sniff the remnants of the glass, which is when the aromas really open up.

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Kabinett, 2013

Something happened in 2013 to heighten the impact, a little more depth, visceral urgency and icy petrol pungency to the aromas, make the finish more savory and salivating, like a fine drill sparking the taste buds. 

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Kabinett, 2012

This is a regal wine, its pungency is a little more restrained - simply a wine that doesn't need to raise its voice. And one whose voice will keep ringing for a very long time.

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Spatlese, Trocken, 2012

You cross an invisible border when you move from classic, off dry/sweet Rieslings to the dry versions. Here, the aromas and texture are a totally different world, even though some similarities remain. The minerals dig deeper, as though the earth came alive. I usually prefer the classic style, but this is one of the best dry Rieslings I've ever had, a very detailed wine that doesn't try to slug its way in, as can be the case with Grosses Gewaches.

Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Spatlese Feinherb, Ur Alte Reben, 2012

This an off dry Spatlese, so it sort of takes the best of what the Kabinetts have to offer and changes gears. If the Spatlese Trocken shifts into mineral mode, this highlights the savory and steely aspect of the grape, with crystalline purity and a very complex and unique character. 

Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Spatlese, 2012

This is a textbook Mosel beauty that sweeps you with lemon sherbet/drops and an almost creamy seductiveness. 

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Auslese, 2011

This exists in different quadrant of space-time, creamier, more embryonic, like being hugged by a friendly panda bear. Again, this shows how all these wines have paint different colors with brushstrokes unto different canvases, but all were wrought by the same hand.

Anrecht, 2012

Ah! This feels like the Schlossberg Auslese sank into a black hole, and, while struggling to escape, is sending out a radio signal that broadcast hints of the same creaminess, but with a killer focus, highlighting the minerals, luring you in. And you don't resist. You can't.

A brief explanation on the Anrecht. Selbach-Oster stick to the usual strictures of German winemaking and makes multiple harvests of their vineyards in order to produce the expected pradikats from Kabinett all the way to Trockenbeerauslese and Eiswein. They make an exception for three sub-parcels (Anrecht, Schmitt and Rotlay), where they make a single harvest. They target Auslese but vinify all the grapes together regardless of the sugar level (presumably after sorting out grapes of lesser equality). The idea is to showcase the terroir in its purity, without any attempt to adhere to the stylistic demands of a specific pradikat.

Zeltinger Himmelreich, Auslese, 1990

This is a fine example of what happens to an Auslese after decades in the cellar. The nose, while no less detailed than in its youth, is less explosive, chamber music rather than a symphony. And time has taken the sweet fruit of youth and delicately sculpted it into a nuanced dryness. There was obviously botrytis when young, but it's implied and insinuated by now. A lovely gift of time.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lost In the Supermarket

The things you find on the shelves. Jesus.

I am an ardent shelf stalker. I go through 'em all. Wine stores, supermarkets, duty free. Even when not actively looking to buy anything, I glance through, look again, compile and file away the inventory and prices. Why do I do even do this? Maybe someday this arcane data will make a difference. What can I tell you? I was a weird kid and I wound up a weird adult.

But, sometimes my compulsive behavior pays off.

Faccenda Enrico, Barolo, Rocche di Castelletto, 2005

Once upon a time, an Israeli engineer on relocation in Italy decided to import Piedmont wines to Israel. His nickname was Doosh and he called his company the Doosh. No English speaker was able to contain a smirk. The operation has long since ceased to exist, but I recently found this bottle, from what looks to be a small, family firm in Barolo, in a local supermarket chain. This type of discovery is one of the thrilling twists in the plot that makes a wine lover's life so wonderful. Firstly, because finding it was exciting and remembering the Doosh was like revisiting an old Damon Runyon story. Then, the wine. With typical, intensive aromas of iron, tar, dust and black fruit, this is not the most refined of Barolos (often a grungy style of wine in the first place) - the discreet sweetness of the fruit, the tart acidity and the rusty tannins play Chuck Berry, not Beethoven. Old World charm doesn't get a lot better than the twisted, long, saline finish, its kinky, spicy intensity whipping your palate to set it up for the next mouthful, right after the nose pulls on your heart strings.(Feb, 3, 2017)

300 NIS.

Joseph Drouhin, Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru, Les Proces, 2001

The reason I found the Enrico in the first place was a friend tipped me off that he'd found a small stash of the Drouhin Proces in the same store. I won't share the details. If this store has any more hidden treasures, hell, avarice is a virtue. But I imagine my friend running into this unexpectedly. I know where the wine was kept and I know you need an employee to access the shelves where it was kept. Did he suspect what he might find there? What was he looking for in the first place? It's hardly a store that raises a lot of expectations.

And then he spotted it. He's a Bourgogne head, just like me. He knows Drouhin is one of the good negociants, so he recognized the potential in the name itself. He knows 2001 is a tough, old school vintage for the die-hards. The rare, unknown vineyard must have thrilled him; he must have relished the notion of stumping the illuminati in blind tastings. He did, in fact stump us. We recognized it for Nuits, I think we recognized the vintage. To his credit, my friend didn't insist we name the vineyard. We would never have gotten it.

It's really an old school wine. It's not a sexy vintage. You get a lot of iron, a lot of rotting leaves and rusty tannins. You don't get sleek, fleet footed fruit. This isn't where Burgundy seduces you, it's where it scratches you in the face and threatens to claw your eyes out. (Feb. 14, 2017)

400 NIS.

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.