KFWE London takes a giant step forward with things still to fix

As always, I start my posts by thanking God and my wife for allowing me to go and taste wines around the world. With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) going strong around the world, I was sure the planes would be emptier, but they were not. Thankfully, I flew and returned home, safely, Shomer Petayim Hashem. Now, on to show.

This year, I flew to London, and was in London for less than 24 hours, before, going on a train to Paris, where I stayed until after Shabbat, then I flew to NYC for KFWE there, then to LA, for KFWE there and then on home. Our plane to London came after the storms that terrorized Europe. First came Ciara on Feb 9th, a week before KFWE, but then came Dennis, the Sunday before KFWE, which was on Monday. What a beast that was, look at these videos, intense flooding! Ciara was so crazy that it blew a British Airways 747 825 MPH! The flight from NYC to LHR took under 5 hours, the fastest on record! I have a few snapshots on my flight going 700 MPH but come on, we were getting the leftovers of Denni’s fury or help, depending on how you see it and understanding the context of where you were at that moment.

Sadly, Dennis was so destructive, it did not stop at London or Paris, it continues throughout Europe. Sadly, that meant that wineries from Italy and Spain were not able to attend the KFWE. So Elvi Wines’s Moises Cohen and David Cohen were not able to make it, and nor was Eli Gauthier from Cantina Giuliano.

Overall thoughts of the new wines

Throughout the travels, I really did not find any new wine that I would kvell about. I STRESS NEW wine. Sure, there are many great wines, but they were wines I had already tasted. I did taste a few very special wines in Paris, that is another three posts from now. Other than that, all the roses I tasted from 2019 carried forth the flaws of 2018, flat, boring, and maybe showing a bit more acid, but who really cares. If there was ONE takeaway, from all the KFWE and other tastings like Bokobsa, and tastings I did in private, it would be that 2019 roses are a HARD pass from Israel and USA so far. The thankful note goes to Royal Europe for bringing back the rose love with the 2019 Chateau Roubine, La Vie! Also, Bravo to the unbottled Costa Rosato from Cantina Giuliano, sadly Eli was not there, because of the storms, but the rose showed very well, more of a Gris than a rose, and lovely. The other takeaway I had from all of the KFWE was that 2017 was a VERY hard year for California. It shows in every 2017 red and white wine, that I have tasted so far, except for the 2017 Herzog Chardonnay, Lineage, which is lovely, and which was on my QPR of the year list. The 2017 vintage, throughout the world, actually sucked. Spain had hail and other issues, Israel was a mess, California had two HUGE heat waves hit it and many lost their fruit, along with the smoke taint from the fires, and France had the freeze that culled many vineyards, while also just being an average vintage for Bordeaux and Burgundy. Yes, there were a few very nice wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy from 2017, but the vintage was no 2015 or 2016. On average 2017 in Bordeaux was no homerun. The 2017 California wines either taste overly ripe and fruity or they taste green and under-ripe. Either way, 2017, IMHO, is a vintage I will pass on from California, sadly.

Getting back on topic, the reason for coming to KFWE London was simply that I like London, it is a great city, and even if I am there for less than 24 hours, it is still fun to see the environment of what is becoming quite a kosher food and wine enclave. The issues I brought up on my post last year, being the distribution of kosher wines is still hanging over London. I spoke with many of the buyers that I know of in London, and they all agree, none of the enophiles buy their wines from a store. This issue is one I highlighted in my year in review, and it is one that needs to be answered long term.

KFWE London 2020

So, in my review last year of KFWE London 2019, I summed it up in one sentence:

So, in a single sentence to wrap up KFWE London 2019, an elegant hall and presentation, solid wines served, ok crowd control, poor implementation of the venue, glasses were OK and could be improved, and the food needs help.

This year things changed, well most of them anyway. Let us start with the good, the hall continues to be a huge highlight of the event, both the general hall and the VIP hall/rooms are quite beautiful. They are elegant and regal, all the ways you expect a London event to be held. The wines were solid again if you wanted to taste the new 2017 Royal wines, this was the ONLY KFWE event that had them all, ONLY! Sure, Menahem Israelievitch was nice to bring the 2017 Leoville Poyferre, by hand, from Paris, but if you wanted to taste the 2017 Chateau Giscours or the 2017 Les Roches de Yon Figeac, you were out of luck. Throw in the fact that ALL of the 2017 Herzog Wine Cellars Winery also had all of their 2017 wines there, along with the yet unlabeled 2016 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga, Single Vineyard. Once again, Herzog Wine Cellars came to play and came with all their wines. Though it was an absolute miracle for Jospeh Herzog to have even made it to London, he too was disrupted by the storms, but he was there, with maybe an hour of sleep, promoting hos wines, Bravo Joseph!!

Throw in the fact that there are also some nice Israeli wines that I tasted like the new 2019 Dalton PetNat, which was a large improvement from the 2018 Dalton Pet-Nat, that I tasted last year blind, and was not impressed. I also had the chance to taste the 2019 Five Stones DvsG, white, which was nice. Psagot roses and whites and reds were all a hard pass for me, sadly. Also, Cantina Giuliano was there, and a few others. Overall, it is a lovely event and they have quite a number of other wineries that are not imported by Royal in the USA.

So, the hall and wines were both solid once again. The crowds were NOWHERE to be found for trade, which was great as I got the chance to taste what I wanted, without anyone being in my face. Which was a VERY different story in NYC, but that will be in a few posts from now. Overall, IMHO, NYC KFWE was a royal mess, with a few highlights.

The crowd at generall admission was normal for London, and I had an up and close ticket to that. Elvi could not make it, so I poured for their table, as always it is quite an experience. Just because it is London does not mean that people are not, well, people. Humans are just that, and I saw the usual, drunk, not all with it, and overall oblivious to wine, and the out-and-out fakers who think they know wine, love to show off about what they know, only to make a fool of themselves, in front of their friends. Thankfully, there were also folks who just wanted to learn about wine or folks who knew wine. Those were the most enjoyable to serve and help.
The funny part for me was that there were tables that no one visited during the trade tasting time, they were ghost tables. Sure, there were people behind the tables just no one in front of them! Then during the public “tasting”, they were straight-up war zones! I hope that shows that slowly, very slowly, people are learning that many Israeli wineries are just not pulling their weight.

The glasses were improved! Greatly so! They were Riedel and they were perfect for wine tasting, Bravo! I wish the KFWE NYC or L.A. had as good glasses. Finally, the food was also highly improved at the VIP. Last year, the VIP was a mess, food-wise. This year, the duck, meat, and Foie gras were all not overcooked, and this year, they were not even allowed to prepare in the VIP room, so even with the cooking being done elsewhere, the foie gras and other meats were done well, bravo! The desserts were also quite nice, as were the VIP wines, which had magnums of many of the older French vintages. VIP, IMHO, was an overall win and a huge improvement over last year.

Misses wise, those would be the food in general admission and at trade. Food was average at best at both, and while VIP shined, GA took a step backward. The food at GA was better last year, sadly, I guess getting both correct is not as easy as waving a wand, but I hope things improve next year for GA. Finally, the hall once again reeked of perfume, almost exactly like last year. It took my brain a good 20 minutes to factor out those aromas in my tastings, which is 100% unacceptable for a trade tasting. Please fix this next year for people who come to taste wines.

Wines I tasted

With the overall event described, I thought we should get to the wines. The 2019 Roubine roses did NOT show well at the London KFWE. They were not at Bokobsa, but they were at the VERY tail end of the NYC KFWE and they were all at the L.A. KFWE. They showed very well at the USA KFWE. They were bottled a few days before the London KFWE, so I chalk it up to bottle shock.

There were some nice wines, but again, the 2019 roses were a hard pass and the 2019 whites, while nice, were nothing to scream home about. The best wine, I had at KFWE London, was a wine I had not yet tasted, yet one that is a mystery to me still. It is the 2016 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah. Now, anyone who knows me, knows that Clos Mesorah is not a mystery. However, the 2016 vintage is exactly that to me right now! I have had it now, maybe 5 to 6 times, and each time, it is either Jekyll or Hyde. The one I had in my room, yes I took a bottle to my hotel room with permission, was epic, while two that I had and poured at the event, NEVER pour a wine you do not taste first, were very oaky and ripe. To have such variation in a bottle of wine is beyond a mystery to me. I asked Moises about this in NYC and I hope he can give me an answer soon. Until then, the good bottle is scored below, the not as good bottle, is not, but I have added a disclaimer to my note.

My many thanks to Royal and Royal Europe for hosting me and sharing all their wines with me. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2019 Psagot Rose – Score: 87
If you like cotton candy in your rose, this is for you. The nose is nice with notes of cotton candy, flint, raspberry, and sweet notes. The mouth is sweet with nice enough acidity, showing sweet strawberry and tart notes. Drink now!

2019 Dalton Pet Nat – Score: 89
As I stated above, this wine is a nice improvement over the 2018 vintage I had last year. This wine is a blend of 90% Semillon and 10% Muscat. The nose on this wine is fun, showing nice floral blossom, with straw, flint, green apple, and pear. The mouth is really nice, great acidity, lovely small bubble mousse, with great tart fruit, lovely. Not overly complex or really that interesting, but it is a solid quaff, with good fruit acid focus. Drink Now.

2019 Dalton Rose – Score: 88
This one showed less sweetness than the Psagot, but it is still very fruit-forward. The nose shows nice enough sweet notes with strawberry, raspberry, and sweet fruit, with bubblegum rounding out the notes. The mouth is sweet, too sweet, but balanced, too much bubblegum and sweet candied fruit. Drink now.

2019 Herzog Rose, Lineage – Score: 87
This may well be the most balanced of the sweet roses, but I am not sure that helps. The nose on this wine is sweet, the mouth is balanced, but the notes are too much for me with candied fruit, little complexity, and uni-dimensional. It is a nice enough of a quaff. Drink now.

2019 Chateau Roubine, Cru Classe, Premium – Score: 89 (Mevushal)
Much better than the last few years, but still not good enough, this one is Mevushal this year! The nose is lovely, with great mineral, lovely classic notes of strawberry and cream and green notes. The mouth is nice enough, I would wish for more acidity, but with time and temperature, it shows with lovely strawberry and mineral but not much more. Drink Now

2019 Chateau Roubine, La Vie – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR)
To me, this is the best of the French roses so far. The nose is better with more mineral and pith with floral notes and blossoms, strawberry and red fruit. The acidity is more present than the other, with a lovely attack showing more focus and complexity, expressing strawberry, lemon, grapefruit, and mineral. The finish is long with pith and rock, solid! Finally, a rose I would buy that is under 25 dollars.

2019 Sainte Beatrice B – Score: 90 (Mevushal) (QPR)
The nose is nice with green notes, strawberry, and fruit blossom. The mouth on this lovely rose is close to a tie with the La Vie, showing better acidity, great balance, loads of pith, but a drop less fruit focus than the La Vie. The finish is super long, with nice tension and grip, showing loads of pith, graphite, slate, and orange, with a great tart and refreshing experience. Nice! Drink now.

2019 Tabor Barbera Rose, Adama – Score: 87
The nose is nice, less sweet than the other Israeli rose, with nice notes of grapefruit and strawberry, sweet notes, with some balance, showing nice pith, good focus, and some mineral.

2019 Five Stones DvsG, White – Score: 90
The wine is a blend of 82% Chenin Blanc, and 18% Roussanne. The nose shows nice notes of smoke, earth, funk galore, loads of mineral, with green notes, straw, hay, and yellow plum. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, tastes of smoky notes, green apple, grapefruit, with hints of orange, with great mineral notes, loads of pith, and great fruit focus. Nice! It needs more complexity.

2018 Five Stones Nobility 215a – Score: 86
This wine is a blend of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Sauvignon Blanc. Sadly this wine shows very sweet notes of sweet oak, sweet apple, and orange with nectarines and smoke. The mouth on this wine is short, move on.

2019 Cantina Giuliano Costa Rosato – Score: 90 to 91
This wine is more a Gris than a rose and I really liked it. The nose on this wine is pure funk, mineral, and more funk, with blossom and almost no fruit other than apple. The mouth on this medium-bodied rose is lovely, showing great acidity, focus, no flaws, showing notes of strawberry, tart raspberry, with green apple and spice galore and saline. The finish is long, green, earthy, and flinty, with loads of rock and smoke. Bravo! Drink Now!

2019 Cantina Giuliano Costa Toscana Vermentino – Score: 88
This wine is well made but a bit weak, no funk, nothing special. The acid is great but not much else, with lovely nectarines, orange notes, and slate.

2019 Elvi Vina Encina, White – Score: 88 (Mevushal)
The nose and mouth on this wine are nice and solid, but there is nothing there to grab your attention, the acidity is great, and there is nice fruit, but I was hoping for a bit more.

2016 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: 94
This is ripe, but it is strange, the bottle that was opened was an oak monster, and very ripe. The next bottle I opened was far calmer in both oak and ripeness. Strange.
The nose on this wine is lovely, still closed a bit, but lovely, with ripe fruit, well balanced, showing lovely smoke, roasted meat, black pepper, tobacco, with good black and blue fruit, all wrapped in loam and spice. The mouth on this wine is incredible, rich, layered, smokey, and earthy, and yes ripe, but the acidity is wonderful, with layers of blackberry, blueberry, juicy tart fruit, with a concentration of fruit, well-focused, with loads of mouth draping tannin, showing a beautiful plush mouthfeel that belies its youth, and shows a wine capable of lasting really far into the future. The finish is super long, plush, green, ripe, with black and blue fruit, backed by loads of tart raspberry, smoke, graphite, tar, and more smoked meat. wow! True joy! Drink from 2023 until 2030, maybe longer.

2019 Flam Rose – Score: 86
The nose on this wine strawberry and tart fruit notes. Sadly, the mouth has acidity and not much else.

2017 Cellar Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera  – Score: 86
I did not write notes, this wine is ripe, really ripe. There will be folks like this style of wine, I do not. It is professionally made, but it is being made now in a style that I would not buy.

2016 Cellar Capcanes La Flor Del Flor De Primavera, Grenache – Score: 87
I did not write notes, this wine is ripe, really ripe. There will be folks like this style of wine, I do not. It is professionally made, but it is being made now in a style that I would not buy.

2017 Herzog Wine Cellars Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Special Reserve – Score: 87 (Mevushal)
The 2017 vintage was really tough. The nose and wine show it. The nose on this wine is very sweet, showing ripe and sweet notes of sweet oak, black fruit, with very little mineral, and loads of pushed fruit. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, really pushed, shocking, so sad, but it was a tough vintage, with layers of dark and brooding fruit, and concentrated fruit galore, sad. Drink by 2026.

2017 Herzog Wine Cellars Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, Special Edition – Score: 88 (Mevushal)
Wow, this was a tough year. The nose on this wine has a bit of mineral, but wow it is ripe, with loads of chocolate, smoke, tar, and crazy dark black fruit. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, crazy extraction, and intense sun fruit, with crazy blackberry, pomegranate, and dark brooding fruit, with sweet Oak. The finish is long with sweet notes and hints of mineral. Drink by 2026.

2017 Herzog Wine Cellars Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, Clone Six – Score: 89
This also is too ripe but more controlled than the normal Chalk Hill, showing great mineral, earth, lovely, but man is it ripe, with smoke and tar and with layers of crazy mouth coating tannin, intense fruit, far too ripe for me, but the professionalism is incredible given the vintage, with layers of dark brooding and crazy earth. The finish is long, sweet, with green notes, mineral, crazy garrigue, and graphite and loads of chocolate. Drink by 2028 maybe longer.

Posted on February 25, 2020, in Israeli Wine, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Industry, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. “2017, IMHO, is a vintage I will pass on from California, sadly.”
    Is this bad-vintage issue only for Herzog (only Herzog’s wines were listed here), or even Covenant and Hagafen (and others)?

    • I was not a fan of the Hagafen reds at all. The 2017 Covenant Cab and Lot 70 were also lacking. I have not tasted the Hajdu or Shirah 2017 wines.

  2. David, I’m getting really tired of reading your across-the-board slams of Israeli wines. Maybe you just aren’t tasting enough. Or perhaps your tendency to taste large quantities of wine in loud, crowded environments impacts your ability to gauge quality. For example, my 2019 Israeli rose has a 3.02 pH and a TA of 8.16. Regardless of whether you like it or not, those numbers (which perhaps you don’t understand) make it physically impossible for the wine to fit your following quote: “2019 (roses) carried forth the flaws of 2018, flat, boring, and maybe showing a bit more acid, but who really cares.”
    If you are going to take it upon yourself to continue to be a self-declared wine critic, I suggest you dispense with broad generalizations of any sort. They are imperfect at best….and very flawed, like so many of your caustic reviews.

    • Hello Jeff! Thanks for your comments, they are always appreciated. As always, we can agree to disagree. So, to start, you commented on my broad feelings about Israeli wines and then attempted to prove it incorrect with a single example of your rose wine.

      I hope we can agree that your 2019 Israeli rose was not at the London KFWE? Because it was not. I found it pleasant as do others when I tasted it at the KFWE NYC.

      So, to close, my feelings about Israeli red wines (over the past 10 years) and many Israeli white/rose wines from 2019 (not yours again – yours was NOT at KFWE London), that I have so far tasted, are uninspiring at best. There are white/rose wines I like, I listed one in the London post, and the 2019 Matar SB/Sem is also nice.

      So, in closing, to answer your question, my feelings have not changed. Your example does not change the overall approach of Israeli red wines, of which I continue to harp about. The 2019 whites and roses are underwhelming with a few exceptions, your rose is nice, not as good as two years ago, but nice. That said, it does not change the underlying issue with Israeli wines, nor my opinion of them.

      Finally, your question of my tasting more of them. I tasted ALL the red and white and rose Israeli wines throughout the KFWE events. I made sure to do this, sadly, nothing has changed, excepting for maybe the 2016 Carmel LE and one other.

      As always, it is a pleasure to chat – David

      • I don’t mean to intrude, but there is something on my mind, if I may. There is a severe lack of information for the Kosher wine consumer. Some information is out there, but not much. Even big non-kosher magazines and publications have little or outdated reviews or nothing at all.
        I (and I’m sure many) don’t/can’t attend KFWE (crowded, transportation, scheduling) but want information. The same is true for the limited local tasting options, if any at all (I know of none in my area.)
        While I definitely carefully filter the information that I get (such as rants that register on the Richer scale or battery-acid-like levels of acidity that I dislike), I do need information. I can’t buy tons of bottles just to taste. Too expensive. I do need to hear other people’s opinions and recommendations. I then buy based on wineries I trust (such as Covenant, always a winner), other wines I’ve liked in the past (assuming a decent vintage), and select recommendations (blog or in-store). Unfortunately there’s not much out there, so I take what suggestions I can get, filtering out things like what Jeff is referring to and store salesman sales-pitches. (Sometimes I’ve seen little tasting-notes info-tags in stores by some wines, but almost never)
        I wouldn’t mind a softer rant too, but you do provide me some useful information, and while I don’t personally agree with a lot of your opinions, they are yours, as is this blog.
        I would also like to add that I recently enjoyed the ’18 Red C and Blue C Roses (1 US internet retailer has some Blue C) despite their ‘age’, and I’ve had Israeli wines that were not “ripe date juice” as you called it, and some (not all) that were very ripe when new, but, at least to me, became lovely wines after some air and/or bottle age, (all just my opinion), something that KFWE can’t offer.
        על טעם וריח אין להתווכח !
        Since there are barely any (if any at all) reviewers of Jeff’s professional caliber or in that league, us readers would greatly benefit if you would “take your reviewing to the next level”.
        Until then, David, keep on writing (and I’ll filter it for myself as needed), and Jeff, keep up the good advice (here and your blog) and keep making wonderful wines; irrelevant to what some people may say, I think that they are ALL amazing!
        All the best and a Happy Purim to all, l’chayim!

      • Hello Yonasan, as I have stated often, this blog is here for me to state my beliefs, nothing more. I am always happy when people leave their opinions as well. Happy Purim and Passover!

  3. Dear David, I think you missed my point. It’s the vast quantities of wine you taste in somewhat chaotic circumstances that make it impossible for you to gauge quality in the way a wine critic needs to. As a former wine critic myself, I can tell you that I always tasted wines for review in quiet, appropriate environments where i could give each wine its due. This is what you need to do. Tastings like the KFWE are great for getting a snapshot of whassup; but not for in-depth, serious tasting. I look forward to explaining to you how best to set up a proper tasting environment the next time we are together. All the best….and Shabbat shalom!


    • Hello Jeff,

      I am always happy to hang and talk. With that said, flavors do not change in environments, if a wine is overripe, it will not magically change to something different in a quieter and more amicable setting.

      That said, I need to be clear, I never asked nor never stated I am anyone’s critic buddy. NEVER. If others see me as so, that is on them. I do not ever state that in public nor do I promote myself in that manner.

      Other than that, I am happy to talk, but an environment will not change the state of Israeli wines, IMHO. Remember, that is all I have ever stated, IMHO.

      Have a great Shabbat!

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