Bordeaux, the cradle of the modern wine revolution, for both the kosher and nonkosher worlds, is a beautiful realization of the past and present coming together to build a fabulous future. The world of true kosher wine, started before Hagafen, before Herzog, though maybe not before Carmel, who made a beautiful kosher wine in 1901 and then again in 1976, one that I tasted, but one that is now a shadow of its former self. Still, before Carmel’s rebirth, there were kosher wines being made in the 1970s, and those were the first kosher wines, that were not sacramental wines. Koenig was making kosher wines in the 1960s, and there were kosher Bordeaux wines being made in the 1970s as well.
The story of Carmel starts with a wonderful man, whose philanthropic desires led to the largest outside investment into the former Palestine in the 19th century, and his history is deeply intertwined in the world of kosher wine, since the 80s. Winemaking in Israel had enjoyed a long and successful run in biblical times. Wine presses used thousands of years ago are still visible today. However, during the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 A.C., many vineyards were destroyed, and the remaining vines were destroyed during the period of Muslim rule that began in 636 C.E. The Muslim rule led to a 1,200-year halt in local wine production. Wine production returned to Israel in 1882, when Baron Edmond de Rothschild funded the creation of vineyards and a few wineries – one of which we know today as Carmel. However, after the massive success of Carmel’s Cabernet Rishon (#1) (where it won a Gold Medal) at the Paris World Fair of 1900, Carmel winery went into a long and deep slumber. It re-awoke for a brief moment in 1976, and then again in 1979 when the Carmel Special Reserve wines again made history. The shocking fact is that the Baron spent less money in France to buy Lafite (4.4 Million Francs), than he invested in Israel, a shocking 11 Million Francs. His shocking generosity was not lost, even if Carmel did fade for almost a century, it was his rallying cry to not forget our brethren, who threw caution to the wind to rebuild Israel, that helped bring focus to their need and was the first true power behind the future land of Israel! In many ways, he was one of the founding father’s of present day Israel.
Seeing how close Bordeaux touches the life of all kosher wine drinkers, one has to stop and ponder what if? What if Baron Edmond (Benjamin) de Rothschild had simply made Lafite kosher instead of investing in Carmel? Does that question offend you? I hope it does! If you track the sheer amount of money that has been invested into Carmel, it is staggering! Mind blowing! Is this post about Carmel? Of course not! What I am offering is a clear reminder that kosher wine, is a three-legged stool of complexity. Please look at my post about the myriad and complex web of kosher winemaking requirements to refresh yourself. But as a reminder, the main three-legged stool, is Religious Jews touching the wine, kosher for Passover ingredients, and the hardest one of them all, the one that should be clear, but one that is often forgotten, these two restrictions, and all of the other ones, start from the very beginning. Meaning that if you walk up to a winery and taste their wine and like it – that means the EARLIEST you can make a kosher version of that wine is next year (unless you taste an earlier vintage and it is still before harvest).
I have spoken about this subject before, really, when talking about Flam, and others that have moved from the non-kosher market to the kosher market in Israel. The issue here is that it is a minimum of a three-year investment for good reds before you see the money. If it involves vineyards, then that is a minimum investment of 6 years for good reds in Israel! You could make them inside of four years, outside of Israel, but really? Who would want wine from a two-year-old vine? Not many! Throughout my time in Bordeaux, the terroir was a common theme, an obvious one of course, but one that shows itself more in wine than in the conversations. Why? Well, most people already know that the land of Bordeaux is hallowed ground for great wines. People make yearly pilgrimages to the storied En Primeur, where the likes of Robert Parker used to cast his shadow, and where Neal Martin till does, along with many of the top Negociants who come to set up shop for the three-day event.
Kosher Bordeaux Wine – the state of affairs
A side topic about the state of kosher Bordeaux wine. People often wonder why there is not a kosher vintage of the most famous chateau every year? Why did we miss out on the famous 2009 Leoville Poyferre? Why is there no 2009 Malartic? Sadly, the answer is that as much as French kosher wine is growing in popularity, it is not that popular.
The issue lies around the cost to make these wines, the knowledge that people have of them, along with the fact that they are well, old world! Also, there is the supply and demand vector that I will keep throwing in along the way.
So let’s start with the last and go backward, old world wines are what I crave, and many of the wine nuts I know. However, it is NOT what the wine drinkers crave in the kosher wine market. OK, cue broken record, ok it is on, the kosher red wine palate is punch drunk on sweet overripe wines, wines that I abhor. Look at the average kosher wine tasting event, one that has french wines, and you will see that the table fills up quickly, and then is empty as the night progresses. Why? Because French wines are a curiosity to the kosher wine palate, and not much more. Now that is a gross oversimplification, yes I agree. Still, it is far closer to the truth than many are making it out to be. Read the rest of this entry
This past week, I had the chance to taste a bunch of French wines and while some were OK, many were so bad that I was truly shocked. It all started when I tasted a French wine when going out to dinner, it was horrible, like drinking water, that I was shocked. It happened again the next day, and I finally realized that I was going to be very unhappy buying French wines.
I have spoken about this issue in the past, and I am sad to report that basic run of the mill French wines are not getting better. In the end, when I was forcing myself to continue to buy French wines, I decided to go with wines that I was absolutely sure about – because I had tasted them already – sad.
Well, actually I had tasted earlier vintages of them. I bought a bottle of the 2010 Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Haut Medoc and I had tasted the 2006/2007/2008 at the past IFWF 2012. The 2010 continues the bone drying tannins, but has nice complexity and fruit as well.
I also bought a bottle of the 2010 Domaine Lafond Tavel Rose – which was nice and I had drunk the 2009 vintage at the 2011 IFWF, which they also poured at the 2012 IFWF.
I did enjoy another rose, the 2011 Domaine Buman, Bandol, Rose. It was a nice wine and one that is good enough when in the pinch. It will not please everyone as it is far too sweet, with nice acidity and lemon zest. Still, the extra sweetness will turn people off I am sure.
Well, there you have it, a collection of French wines that you can take or leave as you see fit, the wine notes follow below:
2010 Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Haut Medoc – Score: B+ to A-
The wine continues it wonderful history of solid results and its unusual mouth drying tannin. The nose explodes with dark plum, rich loamy earth, graphite, raspberry, anise, blackcurrant, spice, and cloves. The mouth is medium to full bodied and lovely with layers and complexity, with nice mouth drying tannin, that coats the mouth in a funny but nice way, along with kirsch cherry, and nice oak, that is just starting to come together. The finish is long and earthy with dark chocolate, vanilla, mineral, and a hint of lemon zest.
2010 Domaine Lafond, Tavel, Rose – Score: B+
The nose is lovely with ripe strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit, lovely rose, and jasmine, followed by white chocolate, and citrus zest. The mouth is medium in weight, but nice and dry, with good acidity, along with peach and bitter herb. The finish is long and spicy, with mineral, cloves, slate, and graphite.
2011 Domaine Buman, Bandol, Rose – Score: B to B+
The nose on this pink salmon and beautiful colored wine explodes with nice strawberry, raspberry, and herb. The mouth is medium in weight with bitter herb, lemon zest, nice bracing acid, too much sweetness does throw the mouth, along with grapefruit, fig, and lemon zest. The finish is long and spicy with good slate, rose, floral notes, and peach.
2009 Chateau Pouyanne, Graves – Score: B- (At best!)
The wine is simply water with a red color. It has ZERO complexity, though it does have a bit flavor, and texture, it misses everything else that it is not worth buying – unless there is no beer or anything else.
As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.
The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:
2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.
2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.
This past week saw us invited to our friend’s house and the first week where I could taste wine! Yes, I could not taste wine for three weeks – AHH!!! Crazy stuff. But, I picked up a wicked cold and needed some heavy-duty anti-biotic to rid myself of a nasty sinus infection. Anyway, I am back and I really enjoyed the wines we tasted this past week.
Our friends invited us to their house and as usual the food was awesome! The dinner started with Moroccan fish that was paired nicely with a fresh green salad, a winter green salad, and humus. Dinner was some awesome roasted chicken and potatoes, gonde and beans, Chicken/prune/Quince stew (Khoresh-E Morgh-O Alu). The food was clearly Persian and was absolutely fantastic.
We brought a bottle of Haut Medoc and our hosts had one as well. It was fun to compare them for a couple of reasons. The host opened the two bottles at the same time, but they did not air out at the same time because they were different vintages, different varietals, and because the second wine was not poured till later in the evening. Wine will air out faster when the bottle is emptied just a bit, so that the wine level reaches below the bottle’s shoulder. This creates the largest possible surface area for wine within a bottle.
The wine paired quite nicely with the main course. The wine notes follow below. Many thanks to my friends for a lovely dinner and wonderful company.
2003 Barons Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is popping with blackberry, raspberry, cranberry, and oak. The mouth on this, 60% Cabernet / 40% Merlot, full bodied wine is plush with fat tannins that mellow over time along with raspberry, blackberry, and oak. The mid palate starts off very acidic but calms down quickly and melds with oak and integrating tannins. The finish is long with more tannins, spicy oak, acidity, and a touch of leather.
2002 Chateau Malmaison Baronne Nadine de Rothschild, Moulis-en-Medoc Cru – Score: B+
The nose on this ruby colored wine is heavy with cherry, plum, oak, and minerals. The mouth starts off over tannic, but it smooths out over time, to an almost mouth coating consistency. It is followed by rich plum and cherry flavors. The mid palate starts off very acidic, almost astringent, but the acidity clams down, into a rich and balanced mid palate. The finish is long with more red fruit, spicy notes, and slight mineral/earthy finish.
This past Friday night (September 18th, 2009) was the first night of Rosh Hashanah 5770. My friend was very kind to invite us over for the New Year and as usual the hospitality and cuisine was out of this world. The meal started with the requisite tradition called – simanim, that we brought over along with a bottle of wine. The simanim are a play on words and are a very basic Jewish tradition of using word play to bring out symbolism and actual changes or good tidings. The ones we brought over are part of what one may call the “base package”, while in recent years folks have been adding on premium channels and special language channels. The seder’s menu is as follows (according to Ashkenazi tradition):
- Sweet apple dipped in honey (along with the requisite blessing over fruit of the tree)
- Broad Beans coated with a mixture of olive oil, cumin, and garlic
- Leeks – prepared masterfully by the host, sautéed in margarine and spices
- Beets – boiled plainly and then cubed, with orange juice applied on top
- Sweet Butternut Squash – sliced butternut squash, sprayed with oil and covered with honey, then baked in an oven set to 400 degrees.
- Pomegranate seeds
- Fish head – salmon head baked at 350 degrees
After that we had a lovely tomato and potato soup with a nice quaffing wine – the 2006 Gedeon Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet was nice, but the soup was better. The soup was followed by a plethora of food that started with braised brisket, potatoes, Thai chicken, and assorted vegetables. The dinner was fantastic. We had the 2002 Haut-Medoc with the dinner, and it was truly slow to open. However, once it did finally open a few hours into the meal, it was a fun wine that matched the brisket very well.
Many thanks to our friends for hosting us and serving us such a wonderful feast. The wine note follow below:
2006 Gedeon Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B
It is a nice quaffing wine with a basic nose of red fruit, raspberry, cherry, oak, vanilla, and tobacco. I must say that the mouth on this wine is nice. It is soft and not complex in any way, but the red fruit is evident and the acidity in the mid palate balances out the fruit forward mouth. The finish is average long, but may well be the best part of the wine with a smoky tobacco, nice oak, and toasty vanilla. The wine is a simple and nice quaffer, and Mevushal to boot.
2002 Barons de Rothschild Edmond Benjamin Haut-Medoc – Score: B+
This bottle starts off dead at best for a few hours. We popped the cork on this puppy at 9PM and it finally found itself at around 11PM, give or take a few minutes. The nose on this purple colored sleeping giant started off dull, but opened to black cherry, black plum, raspberry, oak, chocolate, and a dollop of vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine filled out nicely with mouth coating tannins that lifted the wine, though not in a subtle way. The mouth starts with black plum, cherry, raspberry, and tannins. The mid palate is balanced nicely with just enough acidity, along with tannins and oak. The finish is long with nice black fruit that is carried through to the finish line with acidity, wonderful dark chocolate, and vanilla. The finish is great, the chocolate and black fruit meld in an almost magical manner. Give this wine enough time and it will deliver. This is less complex than it is wonderful, which is not bad at all.