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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Groovy Times

Yes, it's number one, the radio said
Groovy times have come to pass -
The Clash
Salomon, Kremstal, DAC Reserve, Berglagen, Von Stein, Grüner Veltliner, 2009

"2GrandCru, how many Austrian wines do you have?"

"Not enough."

And hardly any Grüner, I might add. Even though I like/love the grape a lot, I tend to opt for Rieslings, lately, because Rieslings is also something I always feel I never quite have enough of (although I do have lots of them). Anyway, the word on GruVe is it matures slowly, so what I do buy, I tend to drink fairly quickly, because it seems like there's no upside in just a little cellaring. Thus, I was happy to buy this seven year old from Eldad and see where medium term cellaring brought us. The nose is discreet, herbal and green - think of mint for reference - with perhaps just a hint of smoke. Other than that, yellow summer fruits, echoed on the palate, with is deep and wide, culminating in the signature spicy finish which is Austria's gift to the world of wine. (Nov. 15, 2016)

210 NIS.

Never one to easily sate an appetite, I continued on a mini GruVe binge.

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Lamm Erste Lage, Grüner Veltliner, 2010

Schloss Gobelsburg fascinates me, an ancient, venerable property bought and revived by a fanatic who earnestly attempts - and succeeds - to combine traditional styles and approaches with modern technique and hygiene. Now, I know this suggests hipster hype, so you'll just have to trust me. The Moosebrugger family and their team manage, more often than not, to live up to, even surpass, their ambitions. The Lamm, for example. So deep and full, it gives an almost sweet impression, certainly a riper one than the equally deep Salomon, yet that impression is derived from a vital, fleshy, dense and detailed substance - providing the wine with another decade of life at least. The character of the grape is equally typical, similarly evoking yellow summer fruit, as well as smoke, herbs and spices. Where it pulls away from the Von Stein is with a curlicue of nut oil that is elusive, yet confidently insists on attention. That inspired interplay with the senses, backed by the density of the fruit is what, for me, defines the fruit of a great vineyard. And, a great team. (Nov. 25, 2016)

259 NIS.

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Grub Erste Lage, Grüner Veltliner, 2010

Without tasting the Lamm and Grub side by side, it's challenging to grasp how the nuances of terroir assert themselves, but this is also a great wine. This, too, is dense and ripe, equally detailed, playing out cantaloupes and assorted summer fruit against an equally captivating backdrop of smoke and herbs, at the same time adding a layer of minerals that was not obvious in the Lamm. I just love these pair, easily the equal of many a Bourgogne Premier Cru. (Jan. 14, 2017)

211 NIS.

Hirsch, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Kammerner Lamm Erste Lage, Grüner Veltliner, 2011

From the same grand Lamm vineyard, this is both greener and more mineral scented, more white pepper than spices. Among other differences, this has a lean, taut vibrancy, in contrast with the sober classicism of the Gobelsburg  - although, Grüner being what it is, the Hirsch also has plenty of heft and the same canopy of summer fruit. (Nov. 26, 2016)

225 NIS.

These are all imported, distributed and sold by Fat Guy/Wine Domaines of Austria. All will age well, assuming, that is, you can find the willpower to keep away from them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Drugs Of Choice (Dec. 28, 2017)

Back at Basta TLV, for a night focusing on Burgundy, which is appropriate, given the guest of honor was Cyrielle Rousseau of the famed Gevrey property, Domaine Armand Rosseau. Basta's private room and menu are an epicure's Arcadia, and sharing wines, in that setting, with someone whose great-grandfather transformed Burgundy by pioneering domaine bottling, is a good candidate for the most memorable outing of 2016 (even in a year redolent with amazing evenings and a week long fiftieth birthday binge).

Domaine Benoit Ente, Aligote, 2013

This shows funky, taut, limey fruit that has a definite filigree. If you ever doubted that Aligote is a worth grape, try this. It's not only a fine wine (consistently the best Aligote I drink), but, to me. it expresses the character of Puligny with offhand ease. Indeed, tasted blind, we thought it was a village level wine.

Vilmart, Grand Reserve, n.v.

With intense, youthful vigor of citrus, green apples and chalk, this shows the bold, fresh aspect of a youngish Champagne. Despite this being a blend dominated by Pinot Noir, and Vilmart being a sort of Pinot specialist, this takes time to show the hints of autumnal aromas the grape can at times bring to a blend.

Domaine Amiot-Servelle, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Charmes, 2010

Raw red fruit - even grungy, at first - on the nose, then showing mellow forest floor and minerals, as well as hints of mint. The palate is in a mid way phase, a tannic and grungy surface belying the savory, precise backbone, which promises an elegant evolution..

Domaine Hubert Lignier, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, 2006

This, too, shows a rough elegance, but where the Charmes reverses the classic metaphor of an iron fist within a velvet glove, here the tannins make me think of a boxer calmly flexing his muscles before a fight. It starts impressively enough, expressing its power as iron-laden, black fruit, before blooming with exotic spices. And that's just the one-plus glass I had; I believe that a full bottle shared with a smaller group over the course of an evening would show ever more facets. Superb, wine of the night, at this point the best 2006 I've had yet.

Domaine Jacques Fredric Mugnier, Chambolle-Premier Cru, Les Fuees, 2002

An opulent and heady, sexy nose, that shows red fruit and spices and a sweetness that I tentatively wrote down as saddle leather. The palate is linear, with just a little padding, not fat, that gives it a jaunty bounce.

Lopez de Heredia, Tondonia, Rioja Grand Reserva, 1991

Lots of iron at first on the nose, as well as that old wood aromas that mature Riojas often give, while the palate shows, sweetly sauteed fruit driven by intense acidity, its power belied by a relatively mellow body.

Produttori di Barbaresco, Barbaresco, Montestefano, 2001

A very classic showing (tar and rose petals), pedigree without vanity. I bought a few mid 2000's crus from Wine Route, and after drinking this, I regret not buying more. This is great stuff.

Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 5me Cru, 1981

Minty, dusty, reticent, black fruit that doesn't stoop to flattery. Textbook Pauilliac, requiring some concentration to gleam the fair complexity embedded within its depths. If the modern, latterday style of the property doesn't appeal to you, you might be in for a pleasant surprise with an older vintage such as this.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Dec. 2016)

Feldstein, Anu, 2014

This is mostly Carignan, with touches of Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, but initially, what I get is a resemblance to new World Pinot Noir, with fresh red fruit on the nose. Not something I picked up at the launch. At the launch, Avi discussed the steps he took to capture the grape's meaty aspects, but at this stage, it shows a rather floral character. Even when those meaty traits do show up, they are delicate and suggestive, shadowed by similarly delicate herbal tones. In short, this is likely the most feminine Israeli Carignan yet, not to mention one of the best, with finely tuned tannins. (Dec. 2, 2016)

260 NIS.

Cedalion, Eastern End Waiheke Island, Block 31 Single Vineyard Syrah, 2014

This is a new venture by Sam Harrop, a New Zealand Master Of Wine. The self promotion on his site is a little heavy handed, but the results here are very good, even excellent. The black fruit is lithe and clean, focused without being over technical, conjuring what I love about the North Rhone without being a copy cat. So pepper and bacon adorn the black fruit and the structure is almost Burgundian, but without the brawny iron of the east bank AOCs or the nervy edge of the west. (Dec. 6, 2016)

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Oberhäuser Brücke, Riesling Spätlese, 2008

The usual cool elegance that is the trademark of the Nahe trio (Donnhoff, Emrich-Schonleber, Schafer-Frolich). Complex aromatics of minerals and herbs, apples and peaches, with a lithe, succulent body that is hardly the quasi Auslese that you sometimes get in recent years, what with global warming and all. Despite the length, it doesn't pack a wallop or complexity of flavors - I keep waiting for a stinging jab that never comes, but this is limp and tepid for a Riesling of this pedigree. (Dec. 11, 2016)

Giaconda, about 200 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Bernkasteler Lay, Riesling Kabinett, 2012

Mosel Kabinetts don't last long in my fridge. I can't keep my hands off, really. But Wine Route wasn't able to unload all their stocks and I found another bottle at one of their branches. This is still vibrantly nubile and fresh, all granny apples and slate, with some aromatic complexity slowly blooming and coming into its own, so that I also get a hint of pastries and kerosene. (Dec. 12, 2016)

About 100 NIS.

Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Le Clos Guillot, 2011

This is in a rather chunky place right now, hinting at possible complexity, but for now only offering simple, homely pleasures: aromas red fruit adorned by lead pencil, hints of brett like dew drops on grass - all echoed on the palate, which shows a rough, rustic poise. I want to like it more - I opened an bottle I bought in the States to share with friends a year or two before Wine Route first started imported Baudry, so I feel a foolish, vain possessiveness about the domaine - but to be honest, I've drunk better Lore reds. (Dec. 18, 2016)

Wine Route, 125 NIS.

Ahat, 2015

I always advocate the virtues of low alcohol wines, but when I read that the latest vintage from Nitzan Swersky's micro-boutique weighs in at 11.5% ABV, I was worried it was too much of a good thing and that the fruit might be too green and anorexic. Especially since it's a varietal Chardonnay this year, not a grape I'd expect to see at 11.5%. Well, the 2015 Ahat is green, in a floral, green soybean sort of way, and it won't load a lot of flavors on your taste buds, but those flavors will be virtuously savory and rocky/salty - think Muscadet with lesser lees contact. Meanwhile the nose is a charming trompe l'oeil of rain water, apple peels and flint. an almost ephemeral mist of aromas and scents. The well defined acidity, bracing with a twist of lime, makes it a very gastronomic wine. (Dec. 19, 2016)

120 NIS, which is on the expensive side. If you buy it, and I urge you to get a bottle, don't buy it to partake of obvious greatness, buy it to hop along for the ride - wherever Nitzan's muse will take her, I'm sure she'll agree this is just a piece of the final puzzle, and you and I will enjoy figuring it out with her.

Flam, Reserve, Syrah, 2014

It's been over a decade since I last bought a Flam. I probably stopped buying at the same time I stopped buying Israeli wines, period, and then when I resumed flirting with the local wines, I guess I was looking elsewhere. For me, the 2000 Flam Reserves signaled the start of the modern wave of local boutique wineries, even though Castel, Margalit and Tzora were around for about a decade at that point. When I returned to the fold, what interested me were wineries that were searching for a different type of identity - more suitable grape varieties and fresher, more elegant wines - and Flam just didn't grab me. I have to say, this wine doesn't look likely to hook me. Aromatically, very nice: black pepper, fresh black fruit. Palate, also nice, lithe with good acidity. So, what's wrong? Nothing, really, but there's just no sense of excitement. At the same price range, Mia Luce races ahead with ease, making this feel like a pale also-ran, while Kishor offers the same quality, with more personality, at less than half the price. (Dec. 24, 2016)

140 NIS.

Abaya, Syrah, 2013

This is similarly styled, but livelier - the fruit is arguably a little sweeter but with a touch more energy, the nose more characterful and layered. I can't put my finger on any specific thing or things that are better here, or more mundane with the Flam. In the end, personality just goes a long way, personality that shows in little details and nuances that keep unfolding with air, at the end exhibiting both an exuberant side - in the succulent fruit that is just a little candied, while retaining hints of black pepper and meat - and a serious, somber aspect, as well. (Dec. 27, 2016)

About 120 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Riesling Estate Trocken, 2015

I can't really put my heart into actively not liking a German Riesling of any sort, but I usually think the trocken (dry) versions miss the point, which is how much charm and joy a little sugar adds to the classic style. But Willi Schaefer makes a great version, where the racy acidity plays the same role as does the sugar in the off-dry version of the Mosel idiom, that is, it anchors the granny apple flavors in a sensual, exuberant vivacity. The quality of the fruit is noticeable in the detailed complexity of the aromas and belies the easy price. (Dec. 25, 2016)

Fat Guy, 99 NIS.

Quinta do Portal, Porto, 20 Year Old Tawny, n.v.

Nice, but, although the pungent, nutty aromas are very pleasing, this a bit too soft and lightweight for me, and doesn't gain more presence over subsequent days.

300 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Blanc, 2015

Ido Lewinsohn manage to coax the same flinty/nutty aromas out of his Chardonnay that we love so much in Bourgognes, as well as a similarly tasty saline aftertaste. That's the obvious point that everyone picks up on and writes about. In 2015, the oak is even subtler and more precise than in the past, or maybe the vintage conditions were better, allowing the sweetness and flesh of the fruit to better assimilate it. I think his red is the real killer - but, even if he only made this white wine, he'd still be one of the nest winemakers in Israel. (Dec. 29, 2016)

140 NIS.

Max and Lydie Cognard-Taluau, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Les Malgagnes, 2009

Slow to open, this shows depth belied by its austerity, as well as minerality and a herbals streak that is a cross between tobacco and garrigue. (Dec. 30, 2016)

13 Euros in the Loire. Seems like a decent value, although I have no idea who Cognard-Taluau are - this was a whim purchase on a family vacation in a well stocked store that didn't seem like a tourist trap.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bourgogne Sightings and Ramblings

Rapet Père et Fils, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2013

I know what I was looking for in white Burgundies when I started out. I read what the wine the books had to say about the classic idiom and the notion appealed to me: savory, focused whites, carrying hints of nuts and minerals and offering saline, rather than sweet, flavors. Most of the wines I tried at the time (say, seven to ten years ago) were fairly young, naturally enough given the nubile state of my collection and my friends', so they only insinuated at their potential to evolve into the ideal I was looking for. Many were at least a little oaky and fat and they remained that way when we returned to them years later. At best. At worst they didn't keep well at all, as Burgundy whites have been cursed by premox for the last two decades, meaning the wines show premature signs of oxidation in wines that used to carry their age much better in older vintages (don't confuse premox with general old age in wines never designed to age).

Eventually, I learned how to find what I was looking for. Some winemakers cater to easily impressed consumers, offering wines whose body fat and immediate pleasures make good first impressions, i.e. they were ripe and oaky - and let's face it, ripeness and oak sell wines to newbies. Many buyers remain newbies forever, so there's obviously a market share out there for wines whose lack of focus and depth is obscured by oak.

On the other hand, there are wines that start out fat and oaky, yet I'd sense they have enough substance to carry them through the cellar. Or would, if not for premox.

So I'm on the lookout for a third option, wines where the fruit is clenched in a compact, relatively lean frame in youth and where you can easily get a sense of purity and clarity. I'm not saying everything about the wine needs to be obvious, but I want to be able to easily see past the oak and baby fat.  And I do prefer to err on the side of leanness and acidity. And I don't like oak. If it's there, I want the fruit and acidity to be dominant enough that I don't have to fret about aging the wine for so long that premox might be an issue, even though I do believe that wines dominated by acidity and fruit are less likely to be cursed by premox to begin with.

But I was going to write about a wine, and the reason I'm boring you with this spiel is that the En Caradeux easily typifies my ideal in Bourgone whites. It really ticks off every checkbox I need: clarity, purity, that compact, focused leanness that belies substance. And it comes from an excellent terroir, a Premier Cru close to the Corton-Charlemagne hill. Which means importers will hype this as a mini-Corton - and they'd be right. Except that with its green apple peels, flint, Atlantic salt, great length and focus, you could just as easily mistake it for a cooler climat Puligny Premier Cru. (Dec. 1, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 290 NIS.

I knew what I'd written for the Rapet went beyond a mere tasting note. I seem to be full of thoughts, simple and intricate, about Burgundy lately. So I just let my muse go rambling though the woods this month.

Domaine des Miles (Domaine Fourrey), Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2015

Chablis was relatively innocent of the issues that bothered me with the Cote d'Or whites, the steely leanness of the style too easily identifiable and marketable for producers to be tempted to go for too much oak (except for some top crus, and even there I take issue with lack of typicity rather then a general bluntness of oak). This is an excellent example of getting Chablis right, aromas of apples and chalk echoed on the palate, carried by vibrant acidity to a saline finish. The internet says Miles is owned by Domaine Fourrey, and I have to say I wasn't very excited with the Côte de Léchet 2014 from Fourrey proper earlier this year. I assume the two domaines are run by one team, but who knows, and anyway, the media (as well as my limited experience) doesn't seem to make them out to be earth shakers, no Raveneau, Duavissat, Henri or Droin. However, this - this would be a good house wine, especially if Wine Route sell them at a discount, as they are wont to do with wines in this price niche. For now, the selling price of 169 is just okay. (Dec. 3, 2016)

Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Premier Cru, Côte de Léchet, 2013

I wouldn't go as far as saying the Dampt team are better winemakers than Miles/Fourrey, but someone in the domaine is more sensitive to the Chablis ideal and has a finer artistic flair. Certainly if what you're looking for are the maritime aromas and salty crunch on the finish, you could lose yourself in a bottle all evening long. I know I would, if I had been more conservative with my small stash. This is almost my last bottle and my pleasures have been consistently bountiful. (Dec. 4, 2016)

This was bought at a 2 for 300 NIS discount at Wine Route and I've always been pleased with the purchase.

Château de Beru, Chablis, Clos Beru, 2012

This is the flagship wine of the Château de Beru, unique for being a sort of cult house with no Grand Cru holdings, just a Premier Cru Vaucoupin, a few Chablis cuvées and this, a monople, walled single vineyard in the basic Chablis AOC that costs more than most Premier Crus. It's worth it, though, if you buy a wine for what it's inside the bottle and not what's on the label; I agree that some houses abuse that notion, but in this case, the price is reasonable. Having said that, it's a rather idiosyncratic version of Chablis, somehow managing to be both ripe and racy at the same time, coming on almost like a Champagne, offering baked apples and mushrooms as well as more typical chalk and salt. The acidity is excellent, a perfect counterpoint to the fruit, which is as deep as a Grand Cru's - almost fat in a vaguely Meursault vein, in fact. (Dec. 17, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 250 NIS.

Simon Bize, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Aux Grands Liards, 2010

I'd been aging this for three years, fretting about opening my 2010's too early (and I opened the Bize Perrières 2010, a mere Bourgogne, too early and never enjoyed it). But this is in a remarkably enjoyable phase, the nose somehow mixing iron, clay and spices with cool black fruit to make for an intriguing complexity, the tannins persistent enough to support the acidity and lend structure without blockading the fruit, asserting themselves as the wine airs to make a point: this village wine will keep and develop for some years to come. Really savory and delicious, the first Bize I've had that lived up to the house's reputation. (Dec. 7, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 240 NIS - still available.

A. et P. de Villaine, Côte Chalonnaise, La Fortune, 2011

Aubert de Villaine has been leading Domaine Romanee-Conti for the last three or four decades. His residence is at Bouzeron where he grows and vinefies Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligote. Villaine is said to be the driving force behind the promotion of the Aligote-only Bouzeron AOC. I like his Bouzeron, but to be quite honest, I'm more enamored of other Aligotes (Ente, Bouisson). Following the Bouzeron promotion, Pinot and Chardonnay wines from the village are bottled as Côte Chalonnaise, so this is actually a village wine. I was a fan of Villaine for years and bought La Fortune and La Digoine regularly. Both are Côte Chalonnaise reds from Bouzeron vineyards, the La Fortune sourced from relatively young vines. I wouldn't have thought of drinking a La Fortune at five years of age, especially from a vintage like 2011, which by all accounts is one to drink on the younger side - but a stash at a local restaurant had really tempted me. And it really is drinking remarkably well, stinging me with the Burgundian Cupid arrow of autumnal, mellow strawberries and underbrush. If I set aside this romantic enthusiasm, I have to admit that, while the attack and middle palate are fresh enough, the fruit is just starting to dry out on the finish. Despite my reservation, for me, this is a very good wine (Dec. 10, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Domaine de Montille, Beaune Premier Cru, Perrières, 2010

A simple Montille Bourgogne 2002 was what hooked me on to Burgundy, some twelve years ago. Etienne de Montille turned père Hubert's domaine into a mini-empire, that by now has extended beyond the family's original Volnay and Pommard holdings, into significant Vosne and Nuits vineyards. The Perrières bottling is located relatively low in the hierarchy, but it's a very good Beaune Premier Cru, and a good value in Burgundian terms, year in and year out. Off course, in a great vintage like 2010 it's an especially good buy. Typically for Beaune, we have here aromas of black fruit and minerals - Mediterranean market spices adding a touch of exotic splendor - and vividly fresh fruit and acidity on the palate (more so than the Bize, just to give a frame of reference). It's a good example of Etienne's style: friendly, sexy fruit, with a subtle, yet persistent, tannic structure. A very attractive wine. (Dec. 15, 2016).

Burgundy Wine Collection, 290 NIS for recent vintages. Starting with the 'classic' Montille Crus in Volnay and Pommard, the prices become a little too dear for comfort, but this is, like I wrote, a recommended buy.

The go-to names for Burgundy in Israel are Burgundy Wine Collection and Bourgogne Crown. Both specialize in the region and carry a mix of classic names and up and coming stars. What about the Wine Route empire, though? My problem with Wine Route's Burgundy portfolio has always been lack of commitment. Producers come, producers go. I never get a sense that someone is trying to build up a following or a true partnership. Just look at how they handle Chablis. Dampt one year, Fourrey/Miles the next, only the obvious crus from ubiquitous Fevre hanging in there year to year (Vaillons, Valmur, Clos - a rather short list for a producer with holdings in just about every Chablis vineyard). Burgundy proper has always been even more slapdash, only Jadot maintaining a consistent presence. I sometimes wish they'd just hand over their Burgundy contacts to someone who actually gives a fuck. But, sometimes, they do surprise me.

Charles Van Canneyt, Bourgogne, 2013

This is an interesting offering from from Wine Route, perhaps hinting at a potentially attractive addition to their sporadically interesting Burgundy portfolio. Van Canneyt is the winemaker at famed Domaine Hudelot-Noellat (owned by his grandparents), who started a micro-négociant business in 2012. Demand for Hudelot-Noellat was higher than the supply, and Charles wanted his own business, so there was a personal, as well as a business, justification for the moonlighting gig. His intent is to to produce “classic styles” from vineyards not produced at Hudelot-Noellat (I can't find out if he buys grapes or must, but I hope it's the former if he's capitalizing on the Hudelot-Noellat name). Since the range was initially restricted to top AOCs - only Grand Crus in 2012 -  the assumption is that this 'basic' Bourgogne is made of declassified grapes of pedigree origins. And, indeed, I believe this is no lowly Bourgogne, as this is very elegant and focused, offering a great deal of flavor on a silky texture, with smooth tannins and poised balance of fruit and acidity. The finish is long and vibrant enough to justify the suspicions that it is a declassified village - the internet says Chambolle, and it's true that the floral scents typical of the village become very visceral, nearly intoxicating, in fact. Lovely, (Dec. 16, 2016)

169 NIS. It would be very sweet indeed if this is a trailer for future offerings from Van Canneyt, or even Hudelot-Noellat.

Post Script

My friends and I went through a flight of Premier Crus, that represented all the joys, intellectual and sensual, that the Cote d'Or can provide.

Josepgh Drouhin, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Proces, 2001

We tend to overlook Drouhin around here, but this is arguably the best of the big houses, and looking over my notes, their wines always shows well whenever someone bothers to bring any to a tasting. Which doesn't happen a lot, because we overlook Drouhin, like I said. Also, the imports are in a weird state of limbo in Israel. Drouhin was never well marketed while the Scottish Company carried them, and then the company folded and Tiv Ta'am inherited the stocks, and now nobody knows what's on offer. Take this for example, Zacki found it just last week in a Tiv Ta'am branch, where it's been lurking for god knows how long. It's drinking really great (and should continue to do so for five more years, at least, although I doubt it will get better), very complex and full of iron and rust accents, an elegant version of the Nuits muscle bound rusticity, that I found easy to spot blind. What makes this bottle even more special is how rare a bird the Proces vineyard is. I looked it up, it's one of the 4-5 smallest of the forty or so Premier Crus in NSG.

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Clos des Ducs, 2001

My friends and I also tend to overlook 2001, probably because it was overshadowed by 2002, the current 'great' Burgundy vintage when we started out. Later, when we started buying back vintages, I suppose many of us opted for for 2002's, 1999's and 1996's, the other 'great' vintages easily available. This is another example of what a lovely vintage 2001 was, and it also shows what a great producer d'Angerville is, a perfect example of his elegant muscular style. It also shows the quality of the Clos des Ducs monople vineyard, or its longevity anyway: you get the feeling it still hasn't released every nuance of flavor it has to offer. If a tag is needed, let's call it a reserved wine. I loved it.

Etienne de Montille, Pommard Premier Cru, Pezerolles, 2007

If 2001 is overlooked because we just missed it when we jumped on the Burgundy train, then 2007 is ignored because it wasn't, in most cases, a vintage for long cellaring, or for showing off at tastings. The Pezerolles, though, is a wonderful specimen, and, like the 2010 Perrières, typical of the house style. Also, with notes of iron threading through the aromas and flavors, it is quite typical of Pommard. The reasons why 2007 is a vintage that pleases but doesn't thrill is that it lacks inches to a yard in every dimension: it;s not quite deep enough, not quite broad enough, not quite bright or sext enough.