This post will be quick but I also want to talk about sparkling wines. As I have posted a few times, people think of sparkling wines around either the Jewish New Year or the Gregorian New Year. However, Sparkling wine is great all year round! It is one of the few white wines that you can truly enjoy with a steak! It can literally be enjoyed throughout the meal and is one of the very few wines you can enjoy with a salad made with a vinegar vinaigrette. All great reasons to enjoy Sparkling wines more often! When I am in Israel and I go to a restaurant and I want to enjoy some wine and there is no Netofa or Vitkin I always go for Yarden Sparkling wines and am 100% happy no matter what I am enjoying.
I will not go into all the aspects of Sparkling wines and my feelings about all things Brut Nature/Zero Dosage, etc. You can read all about that and much more, like how Champagne is made here in this long post.
Now, on to the new wines at hand. I tasted two Champagnes over the past few weeks – one from Bonnet-Ponson and one from Barons de Rothschild. To be honest I have not been a fan of previous vintages from Barons de Rothschild. I do not know if it is the Mevushal process or the Champagne itself, but it often feels rushed, short, and lacking much in style. This tasted fresh, alive, and enjoyable, all around. Sadly, Rothschild does not use a disgorgement date like others so there is no easy way to see which batch you may be buying.
That leads me to the new Bonnet-Ponson Champagne, Extra-Brut which is very cool! Now, fear not this is not another Zero Dosage wine, we have all lived that and we can move on. This is a lovely, elegant, and refreshing Champagne that has a very fine attack of mousse, while also being quite citrusy and alive. The mouth is full and long and it is underpinned by lovely minerality and fruit. It is not as weighty as previous vintages but what I love the most is the elegance. Note – the wine is fine but there are fewer bubbles in the glass after a minute or so than I normally like. So, beware that I do not think this wine will last very long.
N.V. Bonnet-Ponson Champagne, Extra-Brut, Champagne – Score: 91.5 (QPR: WINNER)
WOW, this is unique, fun, and may well be the perfect balance of what we need in the Champagne kosher market. Look, we have said it over and over, Yarden has the grip on QPR forever until someone removes them from the king of kosher wine bubbles – period! However, as you can see, they are gone from the market, for now. I never place price, availability, or access in a wine quality score, so do not think what I stated affects the score, but in the world of Champagne, this is cool! We have had too many Brut-Nature, Zero-Dosage Champagne wines die on us over the past many years. This Champagne is extra dry, but it still has a sweet dosage, and that should hold it for a few years, I HOPE! Now, to the notes!
The nose on this wine is classic low ABV Champagne, tart citrus, apple, quince, green notes, but now you get to truly enjoy and appreciate the nuance of Champagne, what comes out is the yeast, lovely baked goods, wrapping a bushel of green and yellow stone fruit, floral peony notes, roasted almonds, white pepper, and baked Pear/apple pie. The mouth on this medium-bodied sparkling is layered, tart, acidic, and rich, while not being a beast like Yarden, but far more subtle, a wine geek’s joy, toasted apple, bruised pear, buttered brioche, wrapping Asian pear, with rich saline, great minerality, but what hits you is the tiny mousse bubbles that enrich and enliven the palate, a truly refreshing and joyous mouthful. This is not a wine for those looking for a full-bodied and rich sparkling wine, this is a balanced, well-made, and elegant wine that is mineral-driven, and quite fun! The finish is long, green, tart, and refreshing, with slate, tannin, yeast, and acid lingering long.
Personally, while this wine is a lovely wine it loses its bubbles fairly quickly, so while I love it, I would not hold on to it for too long. Drink until 2024. (tasted February 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
N.V. Barons de Rothschild Brut Champagne, Champagne (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is the best one I have had yet with tart and bright fruit notes, citrus, lemongrass, baked apple pie, quince, yeast, and lovely minerality. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine brings to mind freshly baked and then toasted quince brioche with grapefruit, yeasty notes, with a lovely small-mousse mouthfeel, all wrapped in a very nice mineral-based and refreshing approach. The finish is long, tart, refreshing and bright, with slate, rock, and tart fruit lingering long. Nice! Drink now. (tasted February 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs, Late-Disgorged Zero Dosage Sparkling wine, along with some impressive California wines
This past week a few new friends dropped by and we enjoyed some new and old wines together. Many thanks to Eli for getting the food together and to Beryl, Greg, and Ari for hanging out with us, and of course many thanks Benyo (AKA Benyamin Cantz) from Four Gates Winery for sharing from his wisdom, time, and wines with us all.
I used the tasting to do an interesting side by side comparison of the 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs and the newly released 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs late disgorged. What was interesting was that I did not know that the late disgorged Yarden wines were also Brut nature wines, AKA Zero Dosage wines!
If you are following the posts, I recently posted about Zero Dosage wines. My take away from them was that they are a DRINK NOW style wine. Overall, many of the French Champagnes that we have in kosher have been drink-now wines. The Drappier which is mevushal has been a Drink-now style wine, and again Drappier prints the dosage date, so use that to decide if the bottle in front of you is too old.
The Laurent Perrier was also having serious age issues here, as the Champagne was not moving fast enough here in the USA. The not-mevushal Rothschild was outstanding in France.
With all that said, the kosher Champagnes here in the USA are not built to age. However, the Yarden sparkling wines age far better, IMHO. The 2007 Yarden Sparkling Blanc de Blancs has been wonderful for many years now. So, when I had the chance to taste the newly released 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs Late Disgorged alongside the normal 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs I was really excited! I had bought the wines but I had no one to try them with, so when Eli and his friends said we are coming into the area, I told Benyo and we used it as a great opportunity to share some wines.
The notes speak for themselves, but to me overall, the Late disgorged is not worth the money. The wine is GREAT, but for 70+ dollars, not worth it. Still, to taste them side by side, you could see the same style of the wine, but while the normal bottling was still showing very well, the newly disgorged wine was screaming in tart and very bright fruit.
The color was also, lighter in color, and I loved how the 2007 cork was already very crushed, while the new late-disgorged wine showed a perfect sparkling wine cork. See, the image below, along with Eli, big head!!!!
I have spoken about Champagne wines in the past, whether they are made in the AOC of Champagne or elsewhere in the world, with different names, like Cava from Sapin, or Sparkling wine in the USA and Israel.
A quick aside please do not use Champagne unless you mean it! Champagne is wine made in the AOC of Champagne, which is a region of France. It is kind of like asking for the Kleenex when actually they are passing you generic tissues. Or asking someone to Xerox that article, when you mean, copy or photocopy it.
Now, of course, people from Champagne would blanch at that comparison, but sorry, trademark laws are what France is using to mandate the term Champagne be used ONLY for wines from Champagne, so it is LITERALLY the examples I gave.
Impressively France has been waging this war for centuries now. According to Wikipedia: Sparkling wines are produced worldwide, but many legal structures reserve the word Champagne exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne region, made in accordance with Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne regulations. In the European Union and many other countries the name Champagne is legally protected by the Madrid system under an 1891 treaty, which reserved it for the sparkling wine produced in the eponymous region and adhering to the standards defined for it as an appellation d’origine contrôlée; the protection was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. Similar legal protection has been adopted by over 70 countries. Most recently Australia, Chile, Brazil, Canada, and China passed laws or signed agreements with Europe that limit the use of the term “Champagne” to only those products produced in the Champagne region. The United States bans the use from all new U.S.-produced wines. Only those that had the approval to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it and only when it is accompanied by the wine’s actual origin (e.g., “California”). The majority of US-produced sparkling wines do not use the term Champagne on their labels, and some states, such as Oregon, ban producers in their states from using the term.
Sadly, people use Champagne interchangeably with sparkling wine, much akin to Kleenex and Xerox, and no matter the efforts of France and the education around the name, folks like Korbel still use the label, Korbel Champagne of California.
So, what is Champagne and how do we get all those cool bubbles? Well, it all starts with a grape of some sort, in most cases, Chardonnay, but we will get back to the other varietals further down. For now, like all wine on planet earth, Champagne starts with a grape. It is picked (often early to lower alcohol and increase acidity), then crushed, pressed, and allowed/encouraged to go through primary fermentation, exactly like all white wines on planet earth. At this point, most houses ferment the base wine in metal tanks or barrels. Some still use wood, but they are the minority.
Of course, like much of France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne), especially in Champagne, the wine can be chaptalized after racking, until an 11% ABV. Now before the heat waves that have covered much of this earth (call it what you wish), Bordeaux and Champagne prayed to hit their desired mark of ABV, and therefore they used to add sugar to bring up the ripeness on their fruit. Nowadays, Champagne is picking earlier and earlier, and Chaptalization is not a common thing anymore, as mother nature is taking care of the fruit’s ripeness all on her own!
Once the wine has been fermented the next question arises, should they let the base wine go through a wine’s second natural fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation? Most allow the fermentation to take place and require it, a fact that is easy nowadays with controlled winery environments, though some do not like it at all. Finally, the barrels/tanks are blended or in the rare case, kept aside as a Vintage Champagne, meaning the base wine used in it, is sourced from one vintage and not a blend of a few vintages.
So, at this point what we have is base wine, and while it may be an OK wine, it is far from what the final product will be like. Most base wines are nice enough, but it would be like licking on a lemon, these wines are highly acidic, and not normally well balanced at that point.
The next step is to bottle the wine, with yeast and basic rock sugar, which causes a second fermentation. The actual amount of the two added ingredients is a house secret. The wines are closed with a simple beer bottle cap. You will notice that ALL wines made in this manner have a lip around the top of the bottle, where the cap is attached to. Again, if the year is exceptional than the wine becomes vintage champagne and is aged for at least three years. If the vintage is normal than the bottle’s content is a blend of a few vintages and is aged for at least one and a half years.
All the while during this second fermentation process, the wine is aged and the wine becomes more complex from the yeast. The yeast breaks down as it eats the rock sugar, adding the effervescence, and while the yeast breaks down, it adds a lovely mouthfeel and rich complexity. This process is known as autolysis, releasing molecules that are slowly transformed as they interact with those in the wine. Read the rest of this entry
When I last left off on the story of my trip to Israel and Europe, I had just ended an epic tasting of the new 2016 wines from Royal Wines. I then jumped on a train and came to Strasbourg for a tasting of Alsace wines and other wines that are not made by Royal. It included some new 2016 and 2017 wines but it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintage.
Last year we made a run for Von Hovel, and I wanted to do that again this year, and maybe even Nik Weis. Sadly, they told me there were no new wines for 2017 or 2018. I am really so sad, those wineries have so much potential, but I guess Gefen Hashalom (“Vine of Peace”) felt they had too much inventory already. I am really not sure what they have that is not sold? All the Nik Weis wines are sold, from what I know, Gary got the rest of the 2016 wines. Von Hovel did not make any wines after the 2015 vintage, and they have nothing left either. I really hope they make wines in 2019.
After last year’s epic tasting with Nathan Grandjean, I had tasted all of the 2014 French wines that I know of. The 2015 wines are slowly being released, from producers other than Royal. Kosher Wine International, the producers for all the Magrez wines, has now just released the 2015 wines. Rose Camille is slowly releasing the 2014 wines now. Bokobsa has released many of the 2016 wines, along with Taieb, though Taieb has not officially released the 2016 Pommard from Lescure yet.
I have yet to taste the new 2016 Lescure Pommard. I have a couple of bottles and will post soon. I have also not yet tasted the 2015 Pape Clement, I have a few bottles to get to soon. I have not yet tasted the 2015 Haut Condissas, but that is not in the USA yet, or if it is, it is not for sale as Royal still has the 2014 vintage to sell. I have tasted all of the Magrez wines, other than the Pape, and I will post those on a subsequent post (buzz killer – they are not that great). Nathan and I did taste two of them, and yeah, they are OK, nothing great. They are far too ripe for me to be happy. I would stick with Royal’s options any day before them.
If you are interested in these wines, they are mostly wines that are here or will be here eventually. If you cannot find them or do not want to wait, Nathan Grandjean has them for sale on his website: www.yavine.fr (I DO NOT work for wine stores, never have and never will. I get no kickback or payment for this). I state this here only as information. It also seems that kosherwine.com will hopefully have some of these as well.
We tasting these wines twice, once in the evening and once more the next day. This did help some of the wines to open, but most of the wines were either unchanged or some were worse off. I posted here scores from Koenig wines and from Giersberger, as we had visited them both earlier in the day and took some of the wines with us to taste again, the notes here are the best of those wines.
My many thanks to Nathan, and his family (for putting up with us). The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
Bordeaux whites and one Swiss White
Let me make this 100% clear if the notes are not obvious enough. The 2015 Magrez Fombrauge Blanc, is a HUGE letdown. The 2014 vintage is a home run, in comparison. The clear overall winner here is the Barrail white – like WOW, crazy wine for the price, sadly it is still only available in France, come on Kosherwine.com, get moving already!
2015 Chateau du Grand Barrail, White – Score: 91 (Crazy QPR)
The nose on this wine shows smoke, flint, with lovely dry fruit, showing rich honeysuckle, white flowers, with honeyed apples, and lovely Asian pears. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows riper fruit than the nose, showing more sweet fruit, with sweet melon, with a richer mouthfeel than I would expect, with rich acidity that shows a bit further in the mouth, with intense honeydew, melon, and lovely grapefruit, and Meyer lemon. The finish is long, truly searing with acid, and rich with more honeyed fruit, and lovely citrus fruit. Bravo! Drink now till 2023. (This is sadly only available in France)