Category Archives: Wine Industry
Thankfully, the world is slowly coming alive, and while life has not returned to the days of old, the most recent CDC statement allowing people who have received the Covid Vaccine to hang out with other Vaccinated people is truly heartwarming and gives us hope for the future and maybe even a Passover together. Last year, I was extremely tentative about writing this yearly post, but I am happy that many found it useful and enjoyable, even in those extremely early bleak times. I hope this year the post finds you and your families well, and your lives beginning to find a rhythm that is more of the old than the current! Happy Passover to you all!
A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered overripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top-Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list, you can find a 2014 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the 2014 Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted. In the end, price does not define your place on the Top-Flight Wines, nor does QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), only pure quality gets you on this list. The list of Top-Flight wines is ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).
Passover is a time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events, normally, happen a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview Wines, Gotham Wines, Suhag Wine, Liquid Kosher, onlinekosherwine.com, kosherwine.com, and a new store I have been buying from kosherwinedirect.com (they also ship for free if you buy a case), along with the other wine stores I have listed on the right-hand side of this blog (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).
Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the 13 of so dollar 2019 Chateau Riganes Bordeaux, red, or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, or the Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, and many others. These are great wines and the great price is only an added benefit. However, many low-priced wines are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.
Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top-Flight wine, and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top-Flight wines are wines that impressed me when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2019 Chateau Riganes Bordeaux, as nice as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the Top-Flight Wine list. What it does mean was that when I tasted one of these Top-Flight wines, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, the Top-Flight Wines is my way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored a 90 or higher on this blog somewhere, then I can assure you that it was probably an oversight on my part.
Also, this is a PSA – please do not buy 2019 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Sadly, so far, the 2020 roses I have tasted, are also a waste of your money! The best of them are just arriving and I wanted to get this list out ASAP! I will post about them after I taste them soon.
Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)
Finally, it the Jewish custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines are far too hard for me (the concept here is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain period). In the past, I was drinking red, Israeli wines that were simple to drink, not complex or impressive. However, with time, I found a better option, drink the majority of a small cup that fulfills the Revi’it quantity of wine. This way, I can drink an Israeli, not Mevushal, red wine – like a Netofa wine. This is explained more below. This year, I think I will go with Yarden Rose Brut Sparkling wine, again. It is Israeli, not Mevushal, “red”, a lovely wine, and an acid BOMB!
For the main course, I am happy to open a Top-Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace. Another option is to get some of these great glasses from Stolzle, that fulfill the official four cups requirements in terms of volume and respect, according to most Rabbis. The glasses hold 3.5 fluid ounces of wine, which according to almost every source fulfills the concept of Revi’it.
NOTE! This year all 4 cups are NOT a D’oraysa, but rather a rabbinic requirement. Therefore, you can stay at 3.5 ounces. The only day you will need to go to the 4.42-ounce sized cup would be Shabbat night.Read the rest of this entry
Last year’s KFWE NYC/L.A. result post never made it to the blog. To be honest, I was too overwhelmed with the madness and I barely got the Passover post up, as you can read, I even put in a disclaimer, in case people thought it was crass. Still, people replied that it was appreciated and I appreciated those comments. On a total aside, as I stated elsewhere, L.A. was the clear winner in 2020. NYC was a zoo, for both trade and public tastings. L.A., as usual, was a true joy, I know some have issues with the venue, but for me, the Cali weather, cigar bar, great wines, and classic old-Hollywood vibe, give me a break – hands-down winner!
So, after a full year+ under the pandemic cloud, we were all dreaming of another KFWE and sadly, that was never going to happen, as was obvious. The way I see it, for me and my family here in California, we will not get vaccinated until July, at the earliest. Life for us will not be “going back to normal” for a long time!
So, with the pandemic still clearly hanging over our heads, Royal Wine decided to go the virtual route and to ship certain wines, from their large portfolio, in small bottles. I discussed this in my KFWV post.
Much like I stated in my year/decade in review, I will go with the result of glass-half-empty. I will jump right to my thoughts on the event, both the pros and the cons.
- The poor and frozen weather that KFWE has skirted past in previous years came to haunt this year’s iteration, sadly. Packages were frozen, broken, lost in the chaos of one of the worst weather storms in a long time. More were delayed or never delivered. Some were delivered on the day of KFWV and some were after. In the end, the weather was an issue and this was not something Royal could have worked around. Sometimes you get lucky sometimes you do not.
- The lack of variety in the wines was an issue. Remember the idea was to “replicate”, to some extent, KFWE. The inability to get a choice of wine sets was a miss, from a marketing perspective, with the MOST glaring issue (#5) this would still have not helped. I understand that this was already a crazy undertaking, of logistics and overhead, and trying to do multiple lists would have been insane. I get that, but if this needs to evolve, it will be needed.
- The price for the “event” did not include food, recipes are nice, but you had to pay for the food as well. Maybe having some food delivered in NYC or Florida would have been a better option.
- The labels on the bottles were wrong, vintage-wise. This is an issue as anyone tasting the 2017 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib (Mevushal) thinking it was the 2018 non-Mevushal will seriously not buy the 2018 vintage!! This ties into the next and main issue, which is all about very serious unintended consequences, IMHO.
- Yes, I know this is burying the lede, as this is the main issue, the wines were a disaster. The wines were no representation, at all, of the wine in the original bottle. The transfer mechanism failed Royal. The wines devolved in the little bottles as the wine was already subjected to oxygen during the bottling. It did not matter that they filled the wine in the little bottles to the top, it did not fix the issue caused a few days earlier. The damage had already been done and now the wine was devolving over days! The answer may not be simple, but it is the ONLY way to make this work, and that is to transfer these wines under a vacuum. Anything less will get you what you had this past week.
Please do not say, oh why is it different than when they open the wine at KFWE and pour – it is also not like the original bottle at home? Give me a break! These wines traveled for DAYS in this state – it does not get better once oxygen has been introduced – IT ONLY gets worse.
The outcome was a multi-fold problem:
- The wines had NO RELATIONSHIP to what I tasted from the original bottles, all of them! I had tasted all of these wines, other than the Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, over a few months. This is sad, as remember these wines are being sent as an example of what Royal and the wineries have to offer – what I tasted had no relationship to what I had tasted in the past for these very same wines.
- Worse, was that they did not taste good at all. The only wine, “I enjoyed” tasting was Guiraud Sauternes, as that is much harder to kill. The overall process truly ruined the wines and made them not very good, enjoyable, or interesting to buy!
- That last part is very important! The main reason to have put on this event/show was to help sell wine! Sadly, this event caused many to not buy the very wines they were sent. If you asked me would I buy the 2017 Giscours, after tasting the small wine format representation that was sent to me? The answer would be NEVER. Not only did I feel that way, but others told me they had buyers come into their store and say I tasted that in the KFWV and I do not want to buy it! Unintended consequences, for sure, but very serious ones!
- IMHO, this may have been good marketing, but the implementation of the wine bottles has already turned people off from buying THOSE VERY WINES, which is the OPPOSITE of what the KFWE is all about!
- Another side-issue, but very much akin, is that I had at least three corked wines. YES! Remember how much I rail about cork every year in my year/decade in review! Well, it is real and I scream about it for a reason! Now throw in thousands of bottles and the basic math will tell you that there will be lots of corked wine! Lots! So, no one checked the wines as they were being transferred. I get it, that would be a lot of work, again, this is an issue that needs to be fixed.
Now throw in a vacuum environment and you have a real tough job! The answer is an automated system that dispenses the wine from the vacuum, allowing a person to check the wine, and then continue the transfer or reject it. If you have enough spouts and enough people to check, this can be handled within reason. Otherwise, you are bound to have lots of unhappy customers.
- This issue was a BIG one and was why I went with the glass-half-empty score. You cannot charge people and then send them less than what they expect – you just cannot! Sadly, this issue was the undoing of the KFWV, IMHO.
- The wines came in boxes that had numbers – but those numbers meant nothing. Not sure what they added.
- After the event had started, I heard emails were sent out, to some people, as I never got them. Those emails seemed to explain or say what wines were in what boxes and what numbers, but I never got this email, and nor did many others.
- The box that the wines were delivered in had no padding and most of my boxes were almost open. Overall, the idea was nice, almost design-forward, in nature, but not safe, which when it comes to wine is what matters.
- The recipes that were printed had typos and mistakes – again – just a bit too last minute – things that they can tighten up for future events
- The effort was herculean – I get that
- The logistics were crazy – I get that also. However, those logistics were part of the cause of the main detraction to the entire event, which again is an issue that needs to be fixed.
- The effort was impressive, and the overall show was quite nice and fun, especially if you are virtually hanging out with a bunch of crazy friends.
- The overall look and appeal were a solid marketing effort.
- But this was worse than even last year’s NYC Trade tasting where I was punched in the face by elbows a few times – I hope you understand how much this was a good try but sadly, not even a base hit.
- There is a LOT that can be fixed and changed to make these a real future of tasting – but the MAIN ISSUE must be dealt with FIRST – the wine HAS to be managed in a vacuum and MUST taste the same as the original wine or it is a failure, there is no way around this.
- The winemaker videos did show passion but as the chef videos – they were out of place and disjointed. Non-Jewish winemakers saying enjoy the wine with shellfish, kosher chefs saying they have no idea what they are pouring but this recipe goes well with wine/beer/spirits! Again, nice idea, just poor overall oversight/approach/execution.
- I would say, that I buried the lede again, and the best part of the entire event, was the production work! Gabriel Geller, my good friend, I hope still, after forgetting this part of the event, Jay Buchsbaum, and Erik Segelbaum (a top up and coming Sommelier, who happens to be Jewish and loves wine, of course). The three of them traded off here and there and the tasting videos were fluid, entertaining, and very informative! The best part is that they and the chefs can be seen at your leisure on the KFWE website! The wealth of information shared was truly impressive and I am sorry for leaving this part out in my original post, apologies!
In closing, I wanted to go glass half-full and if this was just about having fun and NOT about wine AT ALL, then yes, I would have scored it as such. However, in the end, people wanted wine and these wines were a mess, once you throw that in, the party/fun was not a success, sadly.
As I am want to do, it is another year on the Gregorian calendar and I have already posted the wines of the year and the QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines of the year. Now it is time for the year and decade in review. I had to wait until now, to talk about the decade in review, because there is a clear disagreement on when the new decade begins, so I went with the non-computer science approach (0-based systems), which is not what most people believe. To this point I quote Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag:
Dilemmas over marking time have been going on for years. In the late 1990s, the Library of Congress’s estimable Ruth S. Freitag famously compiled a 57-page research document titled The Battle of the Centuries, in which she called out people who celebrate any era before its time.
“When the encyclopedia of human folly comes to be written, a page must be reserved for the minor imbecility of the battle of the centuries — the clamorous dispute as to when a century ends,” Freitag wrote. Noting that there was no “year 0” in history, she said, “In fact, there has never been a system of recording reigns, dynasties, or eras that did not designate its first year as the year 1.”
To bolster her argument, Freitag, who was then a senior science specialist in the library’s Science and Technology Division, cited historical records that showed similar disputes had erupted when calendars were turned to 1900.
But even Freitag acknowledged that she was swimming against the tide of popular opinion.
It may seem obvious to many, but there was never a year 0, so let’s go with the obvious fact that the decade has finally passed us and we can discuss it in regards to all things kosher wine. IMHO, I will go with the glass half empty metaphor, as no matter how hard I try, there is no real way to look at this past decade in a glass-half-full approach – give the utter disregard from much of the world for anything approaching wine I would buy.
Where are we now??
Well, that is pretty simple, IMHO, we are WORSE than we were last year, and that was worse than we were in the years before. Essentially, we are continuing the slide down, maybe even at a faster rate, with a slight caveat to the positive on high-end white wines. That would be my summation – hence the glass-half-empty reference.
COVID and what it has done to the kosher wine industry
I could not talk about 2020 in a review, or the decade in a review, without at least mentioning Covid! The clear impact of the Virus on our lives is not wine, or food, or any other material impact. What truly has changed are the people we have lost, friends or family that have been sick or passed, and jobs and families crushed by this pandemic. Those things are REAL and those real things are truly very sad and are hard to move on from.
Yes, we have lost freedom of movement, we have been locked away from our friends and family, but it all pales in comparison to the true loss of life, income, and time. Many, if not all of them, have been lost forever, and that is the true loss and suffering.
Still, there is a need/desire to talk about how COVID changed the wine industry – over the past 12 months. As such, I wrote a post – some 7 months back, and I am shocked and saddened by how much it has not changed at all over these past many months. There were some missing points so let us hit them:
- There will be no in-person KFWE or any other tasting this year, sadly. To that point, Royal Wine has made a KFWV this year and I hope you can listen in at least and maybe join in with the tasting as well!
- As I stated in the post the online stores have come through. But even more so than that were the local stores that supported the communities and I can only repeat, support your local wine merchants if you have them! Sadly, our merchants, here in NorCal, while they exist, do not quite have what I am looking for, but they are trying – so kudos to them for that! However, those of you on the east coast – BUY LOCAL! Come on, folks! Your local store is there, you have the same taxes, buy local, and make sure they feel the love!
- Restaurants may finally be coming back, but wine sales are still very low to zero, and again, why do we need Mevushal?? I pray the biggest outcome of all of this madness is the production of dual labels M and not). I know it is a pipe dream, like a real Shmitta game plan – dream on. IMHO, Mevushal will take a hard hit soon, people will see it for what it is, a sham on the kosher wine market. If a wine needs to be Mevushal then go buy a beer and move on!
- The lack of travel and access to wineries is a real issue here. I would have already have been in France twice since my last year in review and Israel, at least once. The lack of access to wines impacts my ability to properly score and grade, but thankfully the UPS/FedEx of the worlds have been doing a yeoman’s job and they do truly deserve a cheer every time they drive by! Please show them the love (from a distance) that they deserve!
- Finally, to repeat – the lack of KFWE or any other tasting this year, or even marketing of wines in-person, will further complicate the lack of wine education in this industry and I fear it will sadly slow or hurt the sales of many wineries.
My yearly blog disclaimer about me and wine
I try to get this disclaimer into every year of my posts – but this year – for reasons I do not know, I have been receiving a lot of questions about my posts. So let me be 100% clear here:
- I NEVER HAVE AND NEVER WILL receive a penny for ANYTHING I write on this blog – PERIOD!
- I do not advertise and I do not receive money for advertisements. I PAY WordPress.com to NOT advertise on my blog. Again, there will never be ads or money on this blog.
- The next most prevalent question is: do I get a kickback for anything I recommend?? LOL! People do not know me well to be asking that question! NEVER! I write what I think – almost literally at times, so NO!
- Next question – do I receive an item of value for my posts? NEVER.
- The only thing I receive, having nothing to do with my posts is access to tastings or wine to taste. Also, I have received passes to KFWE, or this year, the KFWV. The coupon codes are not affiliated links or deals for me! Again, I get no money from this blog – I hope this starts to come across soon!
- Am I receiving money or any other item of value from Royal or an affiliate for the use of the ‘MUSINGS’ discount code? Again NO! NEVER!
- Do I spend money on my notes or wines? I promise you there are VERY few people in the kosher wine world who spend more money than I do on wines that I DESPISE! Very few! There are loads of people who spend more money than I do on wine – I am not a Macher! But I buy the majority of the wines I taste and post on. In the past year that has changed a bit, but no, I buy most of the wines and it sickens me to spend so much money on wines I would never drink or even cook with! Sadly, that is what I like to do. So, sure if the importer will help me and send me samples, great! I will still post my notes and scores based 100% on the way I see and taste the wine. NOTHING else goes into my scoring.
- Finally, I have people in the industry that I call friends. When I taste those wines I always disclaim those as well.
So, that wraps up my yearly post on how I, my blog, or my life is ever gaining anything from the world of wine! I hope that is clear. I do not do any business in wine, I do not sell any wine, I do not transfer wines, I am not a middleman for people who buy wines. I do not in any manner, way, or form, work in the world of wine – period!
Finally, I do help Elvi Wines, at times, to pour wine, at a KFWE or the such, and act as their US contact for the USDA. I have again, never received compensation for those pouring’s. My travel costs are sometimes reimbursed, but that is the totality of my relationship, financially speaking, with Elvi Wines or any other winery or wine business. I am a software architect by trade and that is where I make my money. Be well!
Well, you know it, we all still living under state or county quarantines, with limited to no ability to get around and taste wine together. I still cannot believe how close last year’s KFWE was to be shutdown. Two weeks after the KFWE L.A., which was the best of the USA, yes, I still owe a writeup on that, cities were in lockdown or very close to it.
Well, not much has changed over the last 10 months. We are finally getting closer to vaccines, but they are still a long way off for the majority of this country. So, we have all seen tasting and cooking shows online. I thought for sure that KFWE would go virtual this year – and I was right! However, I never thought through the logistics it would take to make this happen!
So, this is what Royal explained the KFWE would be like this year! To bring the feeling of KFWE to your home, we’re offering for sale a limited amount of wine-tasting kits, which will include a carefully curated offering of 25 wines in 100ml bottles (enough for 2-3 sample pours) and a tasting guide featuring detailed information on the wines. Enjoy wines from Israel, France, Spain, California, Italy, and Argentina, in an evening hosted by Jay Buchsbaum, Gabriel Geller, and Erik Segelbaum, Food & Wine Magazine Sommelier of the year 2019, who will guide you through tastings!
Just think about it for a moment, how exactly does one get 100 ML bottles made? Thankfully, no human is involved! The 750 ml bottle is inserted into a machine and the machine pours the wine into smaller bottles, all in an environment that does not deter from the wine and the wine experience – when you open it 2 weeks from now! That is a TON of work!
Add to that the menus and chefs that you will cook along with and this is going to be fun! I have been cooking like crazy before Covid turned our lives upside down. But where I live, there are no restaurants, so I started cooking all sorts of Asian dishes, from Korean to Thai. Well, now we will be able to take our cooking chops to the next level with chef lead menus to make dishes that will wow your family for sure!
Again, here is Royal’s take on the food side of the event! Throughout the night, we’ll be featuring cook-a-long demos! Simply download the detailed recipe cards with shopping lists and prep instructions so you can cook along with the chefs, friends, and family in real-time! Featured will be Chef Gabe Garcia of Tierra Sur, Kosher.com Personalities, and celebrity chef and James Beard Award Winner Michael Solomonov, owner of various restaurants in Philadelphia with a focus on Israeli cuisine and more!
Looking at this from the outside looking in, I love it. The wine selection is nice, but yes, I wish there were more European wines. Still, there are a lot of awesome wines and some I have never had! The Terra di Seta Riserva and the Herzog Generation IX Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, and others. All in you are looking at 25 bottles that you can share with your family. The best part of it to me is that I will get a chance to taste the wines in an environment that is far more conducive to tasting. No more feeling like a bug smashed on the windshield, you have all the room you want in your home, and the opportunity to enjoy it in a quieter and more amiable wine tasting environment. Throw on top of that the 4+ bottles of wines and the recipes and this is going to a lot of fun.
So, here is the game plan for the 2021 KFWV.
1. Sip and cook along with the official KFWV 2021 Tasting Kit that includes samples of each of the wines being tasted (25 100mL bottles, enough for 2-3 sample pours), a tasting guide, recipe cards, and shopping lists so you can sip and cook all night long! Kits are $250 + processing fees and include shipping where available (please note, we cannot ship internationally or to PO boxes, and you or someone over 21 must be available to receive the delivery). To ensure delivery in time for the event, the last day to order wine kits is February 8, 2021. Kits will begin shipping the week of February 8, 2021.
2. Watch the live stream of KFWV 2021 for FREE! Simply register to receive a viewing link for the February 21st event. Leading up to the event, we’ll provide the wines being served along with the recipes and shopping lists online so you can cook along and put your own tasting kit together with as many or as few wines as you like!
Kits are available for purchase at www.kfwe.com, and Kosher Wine Musings followers save $25 off the kit price with code MUSINGS. Don’t delay, kits are limited, and once they’re sold out, they’re gone.
Sign up now – and make sure to use my code MUSINGS to get the 10% off. I hope to see all of you online – enjoy, stay safe, and be well! The place to put the code is on the main page above the KFWV wine tasting kit.
Stay safe, be well, and enjoy!
OK, so let’s start this whole discussion once again with a massive disclaimer – I am not a food scientist or a chemist, but I know what the USDA says about wines, so let’s go with that!
As with other USDA organic products, organic wine is made without using prohibited substances or genetic engineering (see Allowed and Prohibited Substances). It undergoes the same rigorous requirements of USDA organic certification as other products throughout its lifecycle (see Five Steps to Organic Certification). And, in addition to being overseen by the USDA National Organic Program, it has to meet the requirements of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, especially for sulfite labeling requirements.
Before a wine can be sold as organic, both the growing of the grapes and their conversion to the wine must be certified. This includes making sure grapes are grown without synthetic fertilizers and in a manner that protects the environment and preserves the soil. Other agricultural ingredients that go into the wine, such as yeast, also have to be certified organic. Any non-agricultural ingredients must be specifically allowed on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (see Allowed and Prohibited Substances) and can’t exceed 5% of the total product. And, while wine naturally produces some sulfur dioxide (sulfites), they can’t be added to organic wine. Sulfites are commonly added to wines to stop the fermentation process or preserve the flavor profile.
Wines that are sold as “made with organic grapes” have different requirements than organic wine. When a wine is labeled as being made with organic grapes 100% of those grapes used must be certified organic. Yeast and any other agricultural ingredients aren’t required to be organic but have to be produced without excluded methods (like genetic engineering). As for non-agricultural ingredients, these have to be specifically allowed on the National List. Finally, sulfites may be added to wines that carry the “made with organic grapes” label—up to 100 parts per million.
So, that clears things up, scientifically, for the USA! Meaning that for you to say you have an organic wine in the USA on a US wine label, you cannot add sulfites and the grapes must have been grown organically. All good.
Let’s look at other countries – this is where things become a bit murkier. The biggest of them is Europe and they allow the “small” addition of sulfites to organic wine and those rules went into effect in 2012.
In contrast, the new EU rules for “organic wine” allow a maximum of 100 parts per million for red wine (compared to 150 for conventional reds) and 150 parts per million for whites and rosés (compared to 200 for their conventional counterparts). Sweet wines are allotted an extra 30 parts per million as more sulfites are typically needed to prevent residual sugar from fermenting in the bottle. Canada allows up to 100 parts per million in its organic wines.
In saying that, organic wine does contain half the maximum legal limit of sulphur dioxide (220) – a common preservative in wine that is used to inhibit or kill unwanted yeasts and bacteria, and the main culprit for those shocking hangovers, the next day.
The maximum allowable limit of “pres 220” in Australian wine is 300 parts per million (ppm). For Australian certified organic wine, it’s 150 ppm. To give a little context, most dry wines usually won’t exceed 200 ppm, and dried fruits can contain anywhere between 500 and 3000 ppm. If you are overly sensitive to sulphur, then drinking organic wines can be a “healthier” choice and will usually make the next day’s declarations of a sober future a lot less necessary.
I could find no real laws in regards to Israeli wine production – please send me more info – if you can find – ACTUAL Israeli laws regarding Organic wine production requirements – thanks!
Organic kosher wine options
Now that we have covered the gamut of wine rules and regulations in regards to organic and no-sulfite added wines, by definition, on a label, we can look at the kosher wine options that exist, sadly there are few.
It all started with Four Gates Winery making wine from Organic CCOF grapes, in 1997. After that, we had some wine from Yarden Odem Winery that used Organic grapes as well, but the label kept getting into trouble with the USDA – as there was no way to state “using Organic Grapes” in those days.
We had the first TRULY organic winery in the Bashan Winery until they closed and we had the lovely Harkham wines from Australia, but they are really hard to find here in the USA now, and they would not get the USDA Organic wine label, as they do throw in a sparingly small amount of sulfites. My guess is, they sell perfectly well in Australia, so why bother with shipping.
So, where does that leave us now – actively, outside of Four Gates and Yarden Odem Chardonnay that are not organic wines, but rather a wine made with organic grapes?
We have three options today:
- Herzog Wine cellar’s brand new 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variation Be-leaf. It is the 1st wine made in the USA that deserves the USDA organic wine label, and widely available now.
- Elima from Or Haganuz – was the first no-sulfite added wine that was mass-produced and marketed here in the USA and it is still widely available. It is not made with organic grapes.
- Camuna Wines from Camuna Wine Cellars has wines that – though not “officially” organic wine were made in a natural manner and with minimal intervention. Like added sulfites. Sadly, it does not look like they made any new wines recently.
I would suppose the real question what is the market out there for such wines in the kosher wine world? In the non-kosher wine world, the market for natural wines is massive and Alice Feiring and others are the drivers for this change.
Maybe now with two large companies producing Organic kosher wines – the market will grow, time will tell.
Where is the USDA Organic label?
As we have described above – the USDA label requires nothing more than organic grapes and no added sulfites. So, when Herzog released their 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Be-Leaf I was wondering why the label did not have the USDA Organic certification?
Sadly, the requirements to meet the USDA label versus actually getting the label are not in the same ballpark. While, the requirements are not complicated, getting a third party to the winery to observe and validate the requirements and then validating it with the USDA makes for such an arduous task that Herzog chose the CCOF route, the same route that Four Gates uses – for just Organic grapes. Since the CCOF route was taken and they wanted to denote the organic nature of the wine – without the USDA organic label, the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) required the label have more additions to make it all good. All in all, a classic example of what is wrong with bureaucracy. Take a simple-ish idea and complicate so horrible that the outcome – is more complicated than where we started! Bravo TTB and USDA!!
Either way, the outcome is more options for the kosher market, notwithstanding the complications and headaches for all!
2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variation Be-leaf (M) – Score: 88
This is not the first wine to use organic grapes, Four Gates has used CCOF grapes for as long as it has been around, 1997. As described above, an organic wine means that the wine is, of course, using Organic grapes (CCOF Organic as Herzog is a California winery) and there were no sulfites added at all. As I have posted many times when I talk about the only other no-sulfite-added wine, the Or Haganuz Elima, that all wine has sulfites. All wine has sulfites naturally. Still, Herzog added no sulfites to this wine and as such, it could have garnered the USDA Organic certification if it were not such a huge hassle.
Finally, come on guys, wines like this deserve a DIAM cork, enough already! Heck other wines with bigger price points and “theoretical” lifespans use DIAM, even Château Guiraud uses DIAM cork, for the Grand Vin – come on guys – MOVE ON!
This is the second time I have had this wine and it is finally calming down. The nose is still very fruity, not overly ripe, but the fruit is very present, with notes of blueberry, black fruit, licorice, red fruit, and more dense fruit that has not had a chance to calm down and integrate. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, it shows lovely boysenberry, dark cherry, cassis, and draping sweet tannin, with nice menthol, mineral, and pencil shavings, with an ever-present ripeness that is not going to go away. The finish is a pith attack, with loads of almond, citrus pith, and sweet/ripe fruit that lingers long with a good minerality and tannin structure that will keep this no-sulfite added wine fine for a couple of years. Drink by 2022.
2018 Or Haganuz Elima – Score: 82
This wine has no added sulfites and it is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine is ripe and at 14% ABV, on the label, I think it is a bit higher, with heat and alcoholic aromas, sweet oak, cassis, black fruit, and red fruit in the background. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe and uncontrolled, sadly, with clear leanings of overripe fruit, blackberry, candied cherry, overripe currants, and loads of oak and smoke, with nice enough tannin and more oak. The finish is long, sweet, oaky, and sweet, with sweet chewing tobacco galore and a hint of graphite. Drink until 2023.
Well, yes, I am on a warpath this year, and I am using math to prove that the prices of kosher wines are out of control. This year so far, we have no roses that I would give a QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) score of WINNER. This is a slight revision to my QPR 2.0 post, and I have already amended that post with the WINNER value.
Please look back at my QPR revised 2.0 post. I have been getting a lot of comments on people’s feelings. The overarching interests by many are that I am focusing too much on cost, which I am 100% happy about, as that is a fact that needs serious focus.
I repeat what I stated in my year in review, for something like 7 years now, LOL! We need quality wines AND we need them at a reasonable price. The QPR score is exactly what is says – QUALITY to Price Ratio. The qualitative score is the priority, but if that nice and highly scored wine is more expensive than its peers, it is not a good QPR wine. Simple.
So to stress what I have stressed on my last 4 posts about this subject – here I go again!
Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.
Said in other words. Buy high scoring wines – DONE! Now, if you want to know which of those high scoring wines is a good deal – well look at the QPR scores. DONE!
Rose wine QPR scores graphed out
To make this simple there are no rose wines, that I have tasted so far, this year that I would consider a winner. The winner quintile is the gradient blue box and it is empty. It was close-ish. The 2019 Cantina Giuliano Costa Rosato came in under the median line (the y-axis) but not over or equal to the 91 point score that I need from a wine before I think about buying it. The same goes for the 2019 Chateau Roubine Rose, La Vie, it is a fine wine which garnered a score of 91, but it costs more than the Median price of 22 dollars. Therefore, there are no winners in the kosher rose market, for me, so far, this year. This chart looks akin to the Gartner magic quadrant, but where they are shooting for the upper right quintile, here, we are looking for the lower right quintile, as we want lower-priced wines that have solid scores.
The next post I drop, God Willing, will be the white wines for 2020, and that has a few winners, but that is also because the prices are st STUPID high that some wines can sneak in under the absurdly high Median price! Still, PRIORITY is white wines with a score of 91. So far, there are just TWO new white wines, that are from the 2019 vintage, which has garnered a 91 score. They are BOTH Californian wines and only ONE will get the coveted QPR WINNER score. The other Californian 2019 white wine will get a QPR score of GOOD, which is well good!
Last year, in 2019, we had at least 6 new whites that were under 20 dollars and that scored 91 points or more. The N.V. Gilgal Brut, 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, 2018 Chateau Riganes, 2018 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 Herzog Chardonnay, Lineage, and the 2018 Or Haganuz Amuka White. We also had the 2018 Elvi Wines Invita, but it was not officially here, that, of course, has been fixed thankfully, and it is on the new list. The 2017 Albarino was below 20, I think the 2018 vintage went up in price afterward. I hope we will find more wines that are worthy of our dollars and our time.
In closing, quality reigns supreme, but as many people have told me this week alone, prices for kosher wines are too high. Very few people can buy the wines from my Top Flight Wines, in my Passover wine list for 2020, even the Yarden Rose Brut has been going up in price consistently. Again, thankfully we have good wines to enjoy, but they should not be for the few! Sorry, that needs to change.
Well, my part of California is locking us away for another month and I thought it was high time to talk a bit about the kosher wine industry in light of the situation we are all facing – the Coronavirus.
Kosher Wine business
This is not rocket science, us jews are not drinkers. Relax, I know some of you are tipplers, but the vast majority of the kosher wine world drinks on the weekend, no matter how much certain people complain about it.
Now, that is predicated on the theory that we are home and such. However, when we are invited to a party, wedding, dinner, etc. (remember those things where we actually sat next to someone that was not your wife or child)?? Yeah, in those settings we drink, it is simple, and yes, we may drink more than we expect, because well, we are out for an occasion. It is the common trait of most Jews I know. Throw in a dinner, event, party, and yeah, Jews drink, but we are still moderates.
Now, throw in restaurants, business dinners, evenings out with your wife or friend and we get a fair amount of wine/alcohol action.
Sadly, these events, these dinners, they do not come back when this insanity is over, we cannot make up for it. This is lost revenue that is not coming back. The longer people stay in the house, the longer we are locked up, the longer caterers, restaurants, and wine producers/importers will be in pain. The weddings may come back, those Mosdos/organizational dinners you hated going to may also make a rebound, but I do not see it coming back to the levels we saw in the past any time soon. Restaurants may not come back either and I think two things will change for the next few years:
- Mevushal wine will take a hit. This is not a new thing IMHO. The kosher wine world has been pushing this so hard recently that I think many have either become numb to it or have given up hope for change. With the lack of public occasions for the next two years, minimally, we will see a huge drop in Mevushal wine interest, and I feel no sadness, it is time for the kosher wine world to move on. This will affect Israeli Mevushal more than say the few Cali or french that exist. Cali means Herzog and their Mevushal is irrelevant IMHO, I buy their wines and I never think Mevushal at all. Israel though will feel this the most I fear.
- Home Delivery is on the rise and it will not stop anytime soon. The recent events will seriously change the way people see wine buying in the future. No, the average New Yorker will still go to his/her local shop, but there will be fewer. I have heard it over and over by the online wine guys – NYC was a large buyer these past months, and that will not come to a screaming halt in the future. It will slow, but there will be lingering and residual folks who continue buying online, and that is a GREAT thing. The power of the local wine shop is seriously bad and it is time for the kosher wine industry to be further democratized, with better information and better selection. I see this in the USA and not so much in Israel for many reasons. Europe has been delivering wines for decades already and I do not see a huge shift there either.
- No matter how much wine you THINK you are drinking and no matter how much you think you are buying, the wine importers are in pain. There is ZERO need to cry for Royal wines, they could care less about what is happening, they have the food business and they are run with extreme efficiency.
We do need to care about what happens next for the other importers. The majority of the wine they sell is not to people’s homes. It is for dinners, restaurants, caterers, and so on. With all that out of commission, for the time being, we really have to pray for the welfare of the kosher wine importers, if this goes on for as long as I fear we may lose a few and that is not such a good thing when all that means is that Royal will get bigger.
- QPR will mean more going forward. Look, I have received a fair amount of feedback from my last post, and thanks. That said, I have heard from more than a few about how their ability to buy has been curtailed and that they are on a tighter budget than in the past. People are suffering unless you work in grocery, healthcare, hi-tech, they are in a less comfortable place. Lawyers have fewer clients, the same goes for CPAs. The famous Jewish jobs are not all they are cut up to be in this particular environment. Many business owners have no access or ability to run their businesses. This is a crazy world we live in and people will be looking for more affordable wines.
Hence, QPR is the answer and yes, I think as I roll it out more you will see wines that you did not expect to be so interesting become more valuable, given where some are today financially.
- Wine sales will slow on the higher prices and the French wines will sell but even slower. Look now, 2016 is on the shelves everywhere when 2017 in the vintage in question. The 2015s are almost all gone and a few of the higher-priced 2014s linger. This will pass, but I hope it does not impact Royal and others. The main goal is to have wines for sale not to be sold out of wines.
Having an empty warehouse of fewer French wines is not a victory it is a loss for all. Making less of the wine, producing controlled amounts, numbers, where everyone gets a shot to buy but also balancing the book, is the correct manner to approach a sustainable longterm business in the world of wine that lasts a generation.
We have Royal, IDS, and others to thank for the plethora of great wines to enjoy. This will be a blip on the long term screen of life, a painful, unfortunate, sad episode, but a blip none the less. One cannot make a year-by-year decision on wine production, especially, when you have such good relationships with wineries and the industry as a whole.
Overall, the industry will change and people’s buying habits may shift a bit, but a time will come when importers will need to look at the non-kosher world and ask, why do they sell 2014 and 2015 vintages of Giscours at the same time? Because they are different wines, very different, and buyers know it. Soon, Royal and IDS will have a pipeline of continuous vintages from some wineries in France and elsewhere throughout Europe, and having vintages back to back on the shelf is a badge of honor not a badge of shame or poor salesmanship.
The kosher market does not need to blaze new trails we need to start to appreciate what we have and what wonderful worlds of wine we have been given the chance to enjoy.
I hope everyone is well, healthy, safe, and taking a moment to appreciate the family we have around us. Prayers continue for those less fortunate and I hope they are all answered quickly with good tidings.
So, my buddy, Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered, and I have been harping on the absurd price of wines in the kosher wine world. I do it yearly, in my year in reviews. I have also done it, in a positive light, in my QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wine posts. Avi does it on every score by baking the QPR score into the qualitative score itself, but by also calling out whether he would buy the wine again or not.
However, over the past couple of months, I have personally spent an absurd amount of money to taste wines and they were all a waste of my money. Now, while that is my own personal cross to bear, it is getting out of control. Kosher wine prices continue to rise and the values continue to plummet. I literally, screamed about this in my year in review.
However, until this point, all I have been doing is preaching this subject, and extolling the good, in regards to the QPR score. It has come time to make clear what is a logical buy and what is illogical.
Quality to Price Ratio Valuation
Now, to be clear, just because a wine is 150 dollars it does not make it a good wine, and that is clear by the wine’s score, and score alone, whose methodology I define here. I am NOT going to change my wine scores, those are qualitative in nature and need no new tweaking. If a distributor or winery, or BOTH, wants to price a GREAT wine at 200 dollars that is their prerogative.
Value is defined in the dictionary to mean: the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something. Far too many people hold something in high regard based upon its price or its label or other such characteristics. That is not an objective or even a logically subjective approach or methodology for defining value or regard for an item’s worth, in the world of wine.
Initially, there have been many drafts of this post and methodology, the focus was on price, and even I fell into that mistake. In the end, value, as it is defined below works for any price point.
So, stated simply, the QPR score is based SOLELY on the wine’s qualitative score and its price in comparison to other wines with equal or greater quality scores, within the same wine category. Simple. Read the rest of this entry
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!!
I continue to lament the lack of QPR wines. If there was ONE thing I wanted on my year in review than anything else, it was lower prices. To be fair, this year’s list of QPR wines is longer than last year, and the scores are higher, but I also moved the QPR price bar up a bit to 40 dollars. So, what we are seeing here is price inflation for QPR, at least the higher-end QPR wines.
Once again, Royal has some crazy good wines, even from the 2017 vintage, but the prices are high. Yes, there are some nicely priced wines, but to get the 2017 Montviel or the 2017 Gazin, you will be in the 50 to 70 dollar range.
Also, in my top wines of the year, there was only ONE wine that clocked in at 95, and yeah, that wine is priced accordingly, at 140 dollars.
Netofa Wines are finally back and it shows! They are all over this QPR list. This list is not a list of wines that are meant for cellaring, though many can withstand a few years. The idea here is to enjoy these wines now while you let the long-term wines cellar and age. We all have that interest to drink interesting wines and while I agree with that, that is NO excuse to raid the cellar when u have a hunkering for a complex nose or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.
This year, the list came to a total of 26 names, and none had to dip below 90 in the scores, which is a large number and better scores overall than last year, but again, the pool from where they are culled continues to grow, and the diamonds in the rough are getting harder and harder to find.
I have added a few new things this year. The first is QPR for France, the prices for many wines there, are dirt cheap! Maybe, Avi Davidowitz, from kosher wine unfiltered, can create a list like that for Israel, this year, a bunch of wines became available there, and a proper QPR list would be worthwhile!
Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
The 2019 Red QRP kosher kings
2017 Chateau Royaumont, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 93 (QPR Superstar)
The wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. I liked the 2016 vintage but this one may be better! The nose on this wine is pure hedonism, with incredible soy sauce, mushroom, and loads of umami, with crazy smoke, blueberry, earth, mineral galore, and black fruit, with herbs. WOW!!! The mouth on this wine carries the umami madness, with a richness in the mouth that is plush, and layered with less mushroom and more truffles, with loads of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, smoke, mineral, all wrapped in a rich, layered, umami madness, with tobacco mineral, graphite joy, wow!! Incredible. The wine is ripe, and the voluptuous mouthfeel comes from the combination of oak, ripe fruit, mushroom, and mineral, it will be fun to see this one in three years. The finish on this wine is nuts, layered and ripe, with smoke, mushroom, and tobacco, graphite, charcoal, and more mushroom. Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. This can be drunk almost now, but it needs time to really be appreciated.
2017 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru – Score: 93 to 94 (QPR Superstar)
This is great, the Royaumont is mushroom and soy sauce and the Les Roches de Yon-Figeac is mushroom and barnyard heaven, it is insane. The nose on this wine is crazy barnyard, mushroom, forest floor, with freshly tilled earth, followed by a stick of graphite right in the eye, with crazy salinity, and loads of black fruit, wow! The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is really fun, layered, with squid-ink notes, with layers upon layers of plush and rich fruit structure, with incredible acidity, salinity, and graphite core, with crazy blackberry, blackcurrant, with dark berries, and smoke, with graphite taking center stage, followed by intense acid, and more mineral, with layers of earth, and lovely roasted herb, and screaming tannin structure that will last for a long time. The finish si long, green and ripe, with mineral at its core, followed by more squid ink, plushness that belies the searing tannin, and a fruit structure that lasts forever. Incredible! Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (the price is a bit too high to make it on this list and it is not in the USA, but it is so good, I cannot ignore it)
2015 Clos Lavaud, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR madness)
The nose on this wine is lovely, far more controlled than the 2014 vintage while also being richer and brighter, showing notes of dark fruit, followed by loads of incredible mineral, with saline, graphite, forest floor, and mushroom, with dark red fruit, and loam that goes on forever. The mouth on this wine is ripe, but in such an old-world manner, with rich loam, bright fruit, great acidity, mouth-draping tannin that is elegant, well-structured, and a focal point for the layers of elegant blackberry, smoke, blackcurrant, dark ripe cherry, wrapped in plush tannin, sweet cedar notes, with incredible saline and mineral, with a plush forest floor that will give way to mushroom madness in the future, with an elegance that is really impressive, and a wine that is now just starting to show its potential. The finish is long,m green, with garrigue, foliage, more forest floor, with a plush yet velvety structure that is vacked with core-acidity and mineral, dark chocolate, licorice, leather, and fine spices. Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. Read the rest of this entry