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Paris tasting of Royal’s 2019 and other French wines – November 2021

So, in June I made my way to Paris and I posted the Royal wines I tasted, they were mostly white, rose, and a few red wines as well. For the past many years I have been tasting the new releases from Royal wines with Menahem Israelievitch. Sadly, last year, because of COVID I tasted the 2018 vintage in my house. Thankfully, Paris was open in November, and I returned to taste more wines.

The 2014 vintage to me, was crazy fun because it is less ripe than the 2015 or 2016 vintages. They were also FAR cheaper. Then you had the 2015 wines which were more expensive and far riper than the 2014 vintage. This 2016 vintage is the best of both worlds, but it comes at a crazy high price. I warned you at that time, during the epic post of my visit to Bordeaux with Mr. Israelievitch, that you better start saving your money, sadly nothing has changed about that. The REAL shocker price-wise of the 2016 vintage was Chateau Malartic, which rose to almost 150 or more a bottle! That was close to double the 2014 vintage.

In a previous post about the most recent French wines (at that time in 2017) that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.

While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, the 2017 vintage was not ripe at all, with the 2018 vintage making the 2015 ripeness look tame! Well, I am happy to say that the 2019 vintage is far more in control, less heat is obvious, though it showed up in a few wines below. Now that is a very broad-stroke statement that cannot be used uniformly, for the most part, go with it! Thankfully, the 2019 vintage will be priced slightly lower than 2018, overall, more on that below.

The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels. More wines are being made Mevushal and while I wonder if this is good overall for myself, it makes sense for Royal wines, which in the end, I guess is what matters to them. Will this be an issue? In the past, I have found that the mevushal work of Mr. Israelievitch is top-notch, and just ages the wine rather than ruining it.

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2018/2019/2020 vintages will be the

  • 2020 Les Marrionniers Chablis, Chablis
  • 2020 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux
  • 2020 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur
  • 2018 Des Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Les Lauriers, Montagne Saint-Emilion
  • 2019 Des Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Les Lauriers, Montagne Saint-Emilion
  • 2018 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc
  • 2019 Chateau Greysac, Medoc
  • 2019 Chevalier de Lascombes, Margaux – YES this is new for 2019 OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
  • 2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux
  • 2018/2019 Chateau de Parsac
  • 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc, Grand Vin – YES this is new for 2019 OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
  • 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Red, Grand Vin – YES this is new for 2019 OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
  • 2018/2020 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc
  • 2017/2019 Chateau Mayne Guyon

Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! Same with the Chateau Le Crock, over the past few years. So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below! The answer is yes! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years. To me personally, it is very clear, if Royal had their way they would make the Pontet Canet Mevushal! Nothing to Royal is sacred and this will not stop with the list above, it will grow, proof is Chevalier and Gazin!

Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. While that sounds obvious, I am just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.

The 2019 Pricing and access

When the 2019 wines were released “En primeur” the date was late May 2020. The world, at that time, knew nothing about COVID other than it was killing thousands and questions were all we had. Still, wineries in Bordeaux decided to plow on and the first of the virtual tastings took place on May 28th, 2020 – from Chateau Pontet Canet! This was the non-kosher tasting but at that moment when wines were shipped the world over, wineries decided to lower prices! Remember, we had been raising prices year over year, 2014 to 2015, to 2016, to 2018, it was time to reset. The pandemic allowed for that. Thankfully, and sadly, the world has slowly come back from the brink of death, and now, the 2020 vintage, which has the “En primeur“, in Bordeaux, June 2021, raised prices – so yeah, the 2020 Chateau Pontet Canet is more expensive than the 2019 vintage.

On top of that, the 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet is going to be impossible to buy. I have asked why certain wines in the past were not made more often or the such? Like why do we have Leoville every 2 or more years? Why can it not be more like Giscours? The answer I have received, from many at Royal is that folks still fear what happened during the last recession of 2007/2008. They had made too much of Leoville and Pontet Canet, in a short period, and well, sadly it sat. I get it, who wants to stare at walls of wine they cannot sell?
My issue with that is – well that was more than 15 years ago guys! Maybe a better way to say it is to channel Dorthy – Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Do we believe that another 100 cases would not sell?? The Malartic white is almost sold out! Malartic white! A wine no one thought they could sell 10 years ago. The world of the kosher wine consumer has moved in leaps and bounds – to continue to think like it is still 2008 is to belittle us and deny many what they want – more Pontet Canet! I will get off my soapbox, but it is truly time to stop with the kneejerk mindset. Like no 2019 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, why? Look at the famous 2014 Chateau Montviel story! It sold out in a week. Why? Because there was so little made. Again, the kosher consumer has moved past the days of old – I think it is time for Royal to do the same.

I understand that when Pontet Canet started up, again, with a new run of kosher wine, they created a separate sub-winery for the production. Further, they replicated the process, the varietal blend, and overall physical impact. The physical impact does define the total potential output, but it is time to start to grow the market. The market can and should support large output, especially in the trophy wine space, you can always control the output by skipping a vintage, in the end, Giscours and Leoville have proven it is doable, and I hope that Royal will continue to feel comfortable and grow Pontet and Leoville as we progress down the road.

Still, as always, we are indebted to the work of Menahem Israelievitch and Royal Wines for producing so many wonderful wines, even if they are in low supply. The 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet is a very different wine than the 2003 or the 2004 Chateau Pontet Canet. First of all, the system used to make those wines, back then, have changed drastically in the past 10 years, at the Chateau. Everything is now over the top, in regards to everything there. All production is done by hand and that adds to the cost. To me, the wine is also very different, stylistically, gone is the powerhouse, what we have now is a refined masterpiece. It may shock some people, and that is good, but to me, it is a classically styled and built wine for the future, and the best wines I have tasted this year, so far anyway.

Tasting in Paris

I landed in Paris, the day before this tasting and I met up with Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. It was a true joy to hang out with Mr. Davidowitz for a few days. It was so nice of him to fly from Israel to join me in the tastings. We also tasted over 70 wines – outside of the planned tastings. We thankfully had a great hotel room and it gave us loads of space to hang out and taste through those wines.

We had the chance to taste both the Mevushal and the non-Mevushal versions of two wines, side-by-side. Those were the 2019 Chevalier de Lascombes and the 2019 Chateau Le Crock. I missed the Chevalier de Lascombes but I got the Chateau La Crock. In my defense, both of the Chevalier de Lascombes are ripe, and differentiating the ripe from the riper was not obvious, but hey, I missed it!

My many thanks to Menahem Israelievitch for going out of his way to help me to taste all the current French wines from Royal Wines before they were publicly released. The labels on the pictures may not all have a kosher symbol, but that was because they rushed some of the bottles to Mr. Israelievitch before they were properly labeled with supervision symbols attached. My many thanks to Mr. Israelievitch, Royal Europe, and Royal Wines for making this tasting possible in the first place, and secondly, for taking the time to taste the wines with me.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Domaine Ternynck Bourgogne, Les Truffieres, Burgundy (M) – Score: 87 (QPR: BAD)
The nose on this wine is ripe apple, pear, melon, a bit of citrus, and spice. The mouth on this wine is nice but lacks the acidity to make it come together well, with melon, pear, mineral, and spice. The finish is a bit short with hints of nectarine, orange, mango, and sweet mint. Drink now. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)

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Final Tasting from my trip to Paris – June 2021

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in June, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I must start by thanking Ari Cohen, yet again, because all the wines tasted here, other than the wines from Elvi, were managed by Ari. The total number of boxes in my hotel room, still makes me laugh!

Moises Cohen from Elvi Wines sent me the Elvi wines tasted below while the rest of the wines either I or Ari bought.

As I stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. Even vaccinated, I was worried, and am still worried, as such I kept to myself, where possible. Almost all the wines below were tasted alone in my room other than the last few wines which were tasted at IDS’ offices.

Magrez wines continue to be a horrible mess

Besides the 2017 Chateau Fombrauge, Blanc, which was an oxidized disaster, I also tasted five more Magrez wines and they all continue to be a shadow of what the 2014 vintage was for this winery. Truly unfortunate for all of us kosher wine drinkers.

Memorias del Rambam

These were also not very impressive. I had them over a few days and they never turned the corner. They stayed very much a ripe ball of oak and fruit, classic parker style. The Yunikko was interesting, without the oak overpowering the wine, it has potential, but it also never came together.

Elvi Wines

I got the chance to enjoy the 2016 Elvi Wines Herenza Reserva and it is quite a joy. It should be coming to the USA soon, definitely a wine worth stocking up on!

Languedoc & Savoie Wines

Overall not a bad batch of wines though there is a clear WINNER in the 2019 Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc. WOW!! if that was available in the USA, for that price, I would drink it every week!! Much like the Maison Sarela White, I enjoyed in Paris as well. The 2020 Jean Perrier & Fils Pure, Savoie was nice, much better than the Blanc which was not useful!

Overall, IMHO, the 2019 Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc is such a WINNER it is a shame it is not here in the USA. Again, I understand import prices, extra layers of costs, so I doubt it makes sense here in the USA. But, for all of those in Paris/Europe – BUY IT!

Various Bordeaux Wines

This group was a total loser, other than the Cru Ducasse family of wines and the two Taieb wines. The two Taieb wines were nice and documented here. The rest were a total mess.

The 2012 Château Cru Ducasse, Haut Médoc and the 2012 Chateau Moutinot, Saint-Estephe are two more WINENRS and they were incredible! The price and the quality – WOW! The 2012 Château Cru Ducasse was imported into the USA a long time ago and then it disappeared. It is available in Paris/Europe – BUY IT!! WOW!!

Wines enjoyed at IDS’ Office

Ari gathered all the wines we tasted that day and Ben Uzman from Les Vins IDS shared a bottle of the 2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Blanc, Cotes de Provence. That is a lovely wine, a bit expensive, but a lovely wine indeed!

Besides the lovely Vermentino, we had the complete set of kosher Chateau Trianon that is for sale, at this time. The early 2017 vintage – the petite was not very good. However, the 2018 and 2019 vintages were lovely!

Thoughts on this tasting

Overall, these wines were unimpressive, but wow did we find some real sleepers! The 2019 Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers is a no-brainer for those in France/Europe. The Elvi is coming here soon, and the Trianon while lovely, is not yet been imported, and when it does, I doubt the price will stay near where it is today to stay a WINNER.

Overall, many great WINNER wines will stay in Europe or may come here to the USA but will not be WINNERs here. Still, again, for those in Europe/UK – enjoy! Thanks again to Ari and IDS for their help!

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2016 Chateau Tour Blanche, Medoc – Score: 80 (QPR: BAD)
The nose on this wine is flat as is the mouth, it is not a fruit bomb, it is just boring. The nose on this wine shows black and red fruit, a bit of dirt, heat, and loam. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is flat, it has no acid, it is lifeless, and not interesting. Next! Drink now. (tasted June 2021)

2016 Chateau La Tour Carnet, Grand Cru Classe en 1855, Haut-Medoc – Score: 89.5 (QPR: POOR)
This wine is far less fruity than the 2015 vintage, showing notes of deep loam, fresh dirt, sweet oak, sweet dill, milk chocolate, nice green notes, foliage, smoke, anise, tar, and ripe fruit, interesting. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, but controlled, with proper acidity, elegance, layers of big bold blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, with lovely mouth-draping tannin, dark chocolate, rich saline, lovely graphite, all wrapped in a rich plush mouthfeel, dense yet balanced with sweet oak, sweet tobacco, and nice mineral. The finish is long, sweet, balanced, with green notes, bell pepper, foliage, leather, rich earth, and lovely clean fruit on the long finish. Drink from 2024 until 2030. (tasted June 2021)

2016 Chateau Fombrauge, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: 86 (QPR: BAD)
This wine, much like the Tour Blanche, is empty, it is not unbalanced or a fruit bomb, rather it is none of the above and free of anything that will grab my attention. The nose on this wine is red and black, with green notes, sweet oak, and anise. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is empty, free of acidity, life, or fruit, it has a bit but all I get is oak, sweet fruit, and smoke. The finish is long, with mouth-draping tannin, sweet fruit, leather, and more sweet oak on the long finish. Drink by 2027 (tasted June 2021)

2017 Chateau La Tour Carnet Grand Cru Classe en 1855, Haut-Medoc – Score: 85 (QPR: POOR)
WOW, I am confused the 2015 vintage was overripe, the 2016 vintage was balanced, now the 2017 vintage is lifeless with hints of ripe fruit in the far background, like what??? The nose on this wine is empty, hints of ripe black fruit, overripe blue fruit, sweet oak, sweet dill, and not much else. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is ripe, with mouth-draping tannin, and not much else, blackberry, raspberry, all trying to cover up the glaring hole in the middle, with not enough acid to get this all around. The finish is a bit short, with more milk chocolate, smoke, green notes, and leather. Drink until 2027. (tasted June 2021)

2017 Chateau Magrez la Peyre, Saint-Estephe – Score: 83 (QPR: BAD)
Another Magrez and another wine without any life, I guess 2017 Magrez = empty lifeless wines. The nose on this wine is ripe, unbalanced, and empty, again, with notes of milk chocolate, sweet oak, ripe black fruit, a bit of earth, and that is it. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is empty, it has nice mouth-draping tannin, it has no holes, but it has no acid, and it lacks life, the fruit is nowhere, with a bit of blackberry, raspberry, and green notes. The finish is long, green, red, and ripe, with milk chocolate, leather, sweet spices, more oak, and good mineral. Drink until 2027. (tasted June 2021)

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A tasting in Paris with a few WINNERS – June 2021

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in June, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I will note, that almost none of these wines are or will be available here in the USA. The Vins de Vienne and Famille Mayard are available here, and the Tassi Brunello di Montalcino is here as well. The rest, are either in Israel or Europe.

So, returning to the trip, other than hanging out with my family and doing a few tastings in-person with Menahem Israelievitch of Royal Wines Europe, Clarisse and Lionel Bokobsa of Sieva/Bokobsa Wines, and Shlomo Corcos of Guter Wein, I kept to my hotel and tasted wines I bought throughout Paris. This is the tasting I had with Ari Cohen, David Naccache, Cedric Perez, Benjamin Sebbah, and Mickael Marciano. A really fun group of guys. I must thank Ari Cohen and his lovely family for hosting us during the tasting.

In the end, these were mostly painful wines but there were some real WINNERS as well. We did the tastings in parings of the same regions or style and some were quite nice.

Roses

There were three roses and none of them interested me at all. I was surprised as they had been hyped and they were expensive, but ultimately, they came up short.

Chablis

There were a few Chablis and overall they were boring. The best one 2019 Domaine des Malandes Chablis, Cuvee Amandine, Chablis, but it is not worth the money.

Two White Wines

Next, we had two white wines, one from Pays d’Oc and the other from Savoie, sadly they were both boring.

Sancerre

Next, we had some Sancerre! Yes, finally a real list of Kosher Sancerre! They were nice, some were crazy expensive and none really blew us away like the 2012 Chavignol Sancerre, but still nice. The WINNER from Bokobsa was the one wine that was both enjoyable and reasonable in price.

I do not normally care about price in regards to wine. However, I do care about the overall value of wine in regards to other options in its category, AKA QPR. There are so many great white wine options out there at this time that a 75 dollar Sancerre, nice as it is, really is not as interesting to me when I can have a better wine for half the price.

Another Chateau Magrez Fombrauge disaster

We then had 4 wines – they were all horrible. The 2017 Chateau Magrez Fombrauge Blanc, Bordeaux was an oxidized mess. The others were equally poor, I did not even write notes for them.

Rhone Wines

First we had four Rhone wines, two from Cotie-Rotie, one from Cotes du Rhone, and another from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The two Cotie-Rotie were produced for Mes Vins Cacher and they were quite lovely, though expensive. The Cristia Collection are nice wines made for Israel that Ari was able to also get a few bottles of. This is yet another example of the growing list of French Kosher wines being made solely for Israel’s export. This has been the case for some USA purpose-made French wines as well, but in this case, Israel has taken the lead, at this point.

Next, we had another four Rhone wines, this time these were all made by Nathan Grandjean for sale on his website: yavine.fr. These wines and others from his collection were quite impressive and are WINNERS. Nathan had the largest number of QPR WINNERS in the tasting. Bravo!

Next, we had four Rhone white wines, all were again made by Les Vin de Vienne and Famille Mayard for Nathan Grandjean. Two Condrieu, one Crozes-Hermitage, and one Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Very nice. Two more WINNERS here!

Brunello

Finally, we had the 2016 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino. It is a lovely wine but for the price and the quality, I would stick with Terra di Seta. I will try and taste this again, but for now, it is a lovely wine that is just too expensive.

Overall Feeling

Overall, there were some WINNERS and there were some nice wines that are not worth the money. Magrez continues to make wines I would never buy and the rest of the simpler whites and roses were a total waste of money.
The higher-end wines were nice but many were far too expensive to make it reasonable. Still, there is a growing selection of wines from regions that we could have only dreamed about in the past!

I must state that I could NEVER have tasted these wines without the incredible help of Ari Cohen, Nathan Grandjean of yavine.fr online wine shop, and MesVinCacher. Ari tracked down all the wines for this tasting and hosted us for the afternoon that turned into the evening. I was sure he was ready to throw us out an hour earlier! Thanks so much, Ari, and thanks to your wife and family for putting up with me, and the gang that invaded your home!

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Roussawine Rose, Greece – Score: 88 (QPR: EVEN)
The wine is surprisingly good for 2019 rose. The nose on this wine is nice enough, with good fruit, nice acidity, and minerality. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is painful, it is too sweet, not balanced enough, but nice still, with melon, sweet strawberry, guava, and tart grapefruit. Nice enough. Drink now. (tasted June 2021)

2020 Chateau Gairoird Rose, Cotes de Provence – Score: 87 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is simple, a bit of grapefruit, strawberry, peach, raspberry, and mineral, simple. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice enough, it lacks the acidity to balance this wine, it is good enough, but sadly move on. (tasted June 2021)

2020 Chateau de Saint-Martin Grand Reserve, Cotes de Provence – Score: 85 (QPR: BAD)
The nose on this wine is pure citrus, tart grapefruit, hints of apricot, really the nose is filled with deep minerality, smoke, and bright fruit. The mouth on this wine is balanced, but it has slight bubbles, when you shake it the acidity falls off, this is crazy, the wine was supposed to be so great, but honestly, all I get is saline, smoke, and grapefruit. The finish is short, but the minerality and saline are nice, very sad. Drink now (tasted June 2021)

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Paris tasting with Shlomo Corcos (Guter Wein) – June 2021

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in June, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I must start by thanking Shlomo Corcos (Guter Wein) and Yoel Kassabi from YayinKosher. They were so kind to host me and allow me to taste the lovely wines. I was also joined by Ari Cohen.

So, returning to the trip, as stated in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. Even vaccinated, I was worried, and am still worried, as such I kept to myself, where possible. However, Messrs Corcos and Kassabi were super busy the entire week and the only time they had was a lovely Friday morning, so we met to taste through the wines then. Corcos has been the mashgiach behind many wines, including Falesco and some IDS wines, along with his own Guter Wein wines.

It was a short tasting, but there were some interesting and unique wines. Including a lovely and very unique 2013 Falesco Innocence, Blanco, a wine I would love to drink every day, sadly, it is not available here in the USA. All of the wines I tasted are available on Mr. Kassabi website YayinKosher. We also tasted the incredible QPR WINNER, for France, of 2012 Plaisir de Siaurac – which sells for 12 euros! Sure, it is a drink now wine, but how often can you get a lovely QPR WINNER, aged to perfection, ready to drink, and dirty/filthy as all-get-out! Just lovely and crazy great price!
There were also three very unique Bulgarian wines. Along with another lovely Italian Verdeto. Along with a few new Bordeaux wines that we did not get the chance to taste the last time we had a tasting with Messrs Corcos and Kassabi. The 2016 Chateau Saint Eugene Martillac, QPR WINNER 2016 Chateau Haut-Bacalan, and the lovely 2018 Chateau Kirwan Grand Cru Classe.

In regards to whether these wines will be available in the USA, I suppose that would matter on import and other such issues. For now, they are all in France/Europe.

My many thanks to Messrs Corcos and Kassabi for setting up the meeting, sharing the wines with us, and for taking time out of their incredibly busy schedule to meet with us. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2013 Falesco Innocence, Blanco, Umbria – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Semillon. The nose on this wine is lovely with sweet oak, crazy funk, rich straw, hay, and lovely smoke, with fresh bright apple, quince, and mineral, wow! The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, rich, layered, ripe, but acidic, with great fruit focus, showing funk, mineral, saline, earth, dirt, sweet melon, apple, quince, and crazy funk, wow! The finish is lovely, bright, tart, with lemon/lime, smoke, graphite, hay, and sweet spices. WOW!!! Drink until 2024. WOW! (tasted June 2021)

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Assorted French wines I had before my travel to KFWE NYC and L.A.

After the tasting through the current portfolio of Les Vins IDS with Benjamin Uzan, we continued with other wines. I said then that I would revisit the wines that I and Elie Cohen had collected for this tasting, along with some wines that Ben Sitruk brought, that he sells on his site. I was once again joined by Elie Cohen, Ben Sitruk, and Elie Dayan, a few of the French kosher wine forum members.

To say that Victor wines are an enigma would be an understatement. They are the USA importer of some Taieb’s wines. Other Taieb wines are either imported by Royal Wine (Laurent Perrier) or Andrew Breskin’s Liquid Kosher for the Burgundies.

However, Victor Wines also makes their own wines and there are many of them. The distribution of their wines and the Taieb wines inside the USA is problematic and haphazard at best. Onlinekosherwine.com has started to sell a few. Other than that the ONLY place I have ever seen all the wines or even most of the wines in a single place is the Kosher Kingdom on Aventura BLVD in Miami/Aventura, Florida. Of course, that makes sense since Victor wine’s headquarters is in Hollywood, FL, not far from Miami or Aventura, Florida.

The family that runs Victor Wines has been the in meat and restaurant business for many years according to their website.

Ari Cohen bought a bunch of the wines, ones that were not available at the family’s restaurants. Then we bought the rest of the wines at the restaurant and we were ready to taste them. Overall, I was not impressed. The wineries where they make the wines are not that impressive but I am always looking for good news. Also, Ben brought in some wines, like the WONDERFUL 2010 Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon. Sadly, the 2010 La Demoiselle D’Haut-Peyrat, the second label of Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon, was dead. We also tasted the Chateau Gardut Haut Cluzeau, which is another name for Grand Barrail that I tasted a few times with Nathan Grandjean.

Finally, we had dinner the next night and we brought tons of wines over and there were really only a few wines that were either interesting or new to me and those are also listed below.

Many thanks to Arie Cohen and Ben Sitruk for bringing a couple of wines to taste, including the Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon wines and the Chateau Gardut Haut Cluzeau. Thanks to Jonathan Assayag for bringing a wine I have never tasted to the dinner, the 2005 Chateau Moncets, Lalande de Pomerol. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2015 Chateau Rollan de By, Medoc, 2010 Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon, Haut-Medoc, 2015 Chateau Tour Blanche, Medoc, 2010 La Demoiselle D'Haut-Peyrat, Haut-Medoc, 2018 Chateau Gardut Haut Cluzeau

2010 La Demoiselle D’Haut-Peyrat, Haut-Medoc – Score: NA
Sadly this wine was dead

2015 Chateau Tour Blanche, Medoc – Score: 70
This wine is all over the place, just a pure mess, sad. The fruit and mouthfeel are black with hints of red notes, but besides that, the wine is really not that interesting at all. Sad. Read the rest of this entry

Les Vins IDS continues to truly impress, with the new 2017 Chateau Lafon Rochet and more

The day after the Bokobsa tasting, and following the tasting of the Corcos wines, Ari, Eli, and I went to lunch, to pick up wines and eat lunch. The lunch was uninspiring, but the store/restaurant gave us a chance to pick up many wines I have been dying to taste, as they are extremely hard to find almost anywhere in the world, but that will have to wait till after this IDS post.

Following lunch, we made our way to IDS’ offices and Ben Uzan was there with his wines, minus the current Burgundies from Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter, that I had already tasted with Ralph.

Complete Les Vins IDS wine lineup 2

Les Vins IDS

IDS, as we know it is officially called Les Vins IDS and IDS, stands for International Distribution Service. IDS does not control a large number of wineries, but the amount that they do control, are some of the most vaunted kosher French wines around! The granddaddy would be the epic, Smith Haut Lafitte! I have tasted almost all of the kosher vintages, 1995 and 2000 were brought in by Royal, with the 1995 vintage being made by Bokobsa. 2002 and 2009 – was never quite clear to me (wink wink) who officially imported those wines to the USA. The 2014 vintage is now being imported to the USA by M & M Importers. The only one of that list I have yet to taste is the 1995 vintage. I actually did “taste” it, but sadly it was corked.

IDS also makes the kosher runs at the fantastic Chateau Lafon Rochet, which has been made kosher so far in 2001, 2003, and 2010, and again in 2017. I have, thankfully, tasted them all, besides the 2017 vintage until this tasting, and to me, the 2010 vintage is in a league of its own.

IDS also controls the relationship with Chateau Valandraud, to me maybe the most vaunted Grand Cru in the Saint-Émilion appellation. No, it is not Angelus or Cheval Blanc, but it is a very big win for the kosher wine drinking public. As an example, here were the top 10 wineries for the 2014 vintage, of the Grand Vin from the Saint Emilion wineries, scored by Decanter.

Sadly, the last kosher Grand Vin made from Valandraud was in 2005, and what a wine it is! Since then, they have made the second label of Chateau Valandraud kosher, the Virginie de Valandraud ( a 2nd label for the vaunted winery, that was started in non-kosher in 1992). This wine has been made kosher in 2004, 2011, and 2015. I have not tasted the 2004 Virginie, but I have tasted the 2011 and 2015, and it is a consistently impressive wine, but a bit richly priced, which is what you get when you talk about Valandraud.

Finally, there is Chateau Labegorce, a wine that used to be a killer QPR wine when it was first released. Now, the price here in the USA is a bit elevated, but the 2015 vintage is quite the winner, IMHO! There have been two wines from this winery, the Labegorce ‘Zede’ and the Labegorce Margaux, both are Margaux wines, with the Zede winery closing in 2008. Its fruit was merged into the Labegorce Margaux in 2008.

IDS has made other wines, but they have not produced more vintages, like the Chateau Matras (2002 and 2004) and Chateau L’Hermitage (which both closed down), and Chateau Rauzan – Gassies (which was too small to continue with). Chateau Haut Condissas, and the rest of the Rollan de By wines, was originally made by IDS, but after 2005, it went under the control of Rollan de By, which also was made by IDS until 2003.

Essentially, after the 2005 vintages, IDS now fully controls six wineries, La Tour de By, Leydet-Valentin, Valandraud, Labegorce, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Lafon Rochet. 

On top of those six wineries IDS has started making some rose and sparkling wines. They made sparkling wine in the past, from Lilian Renoir, I never tasted it. But now they have made a new Brut and Rose Champagne from Janisson & Fils. Also, they make a lovely rose, Chateau Sainte Marguerite Rose, the best rose of the year for me, last year, though it is steeply-priced.

There are also two new Bordeaux wines coming that will be announced later this year.

Complete Les Vins IDS wine lineup - back labels

The Tasting

After lunch, we found our way to Ben Uzan’s offices, and we were ready to taste the lineup. Mr. Uzan was very kind to share all of the current wines in Les Vins IDS’ portfolio, other than the two Champagne and the 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Burgundies.

I was really looking forward to tasting the lower level IDS wines that never make it to the USA, as the pricing would not work there, but wines that work beautifully in France, price-wise. The rose was still showing its minerality, though sadly the acidity that I loved so much had fallen off. I also wanted to taste a few of the higher-end wines that had not yet made it to the USA, like the new 2017 Chateau Lafon Rochet. It was a joy and honor to taste the epic 2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte again, it is so young and yet so wonderful!

We also, hijacked the offices to taste other wines, which I will NOT post here, but ones I will post in a subsequent post after this one. Mr. Uzan was beyond kind and his hospitality and openness with our questions showed the grace that I love from his wines. I was again joined by a few of the French forum members, including Ari Cohen, Ben Sitruk, and Elie Dayan. Read the rest of this entry

The Top QPR Kosher wine winners of 2019

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

Taieb continues to excel at making solid wines for reasonable prices in France

After our miraculous escape from the hotel which brought vivid memories of one of my favorite songs of all time – Hotel California, highlighted by the most famous line in that song: ”Relax said the night man, we are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”. If you were there, the dude almost said those words as we were running for the door, anyway, on to more happy thoughts.

We escaped “Hotel California” and made our way to the train station in Lyon for our trip to Roanne. This train is the common man’s train, and it allowed us an interesting glimpse into the melting pot of France’s middle class. The trains from Paris or Strasbourg were TGV trains and though they can be bought on the cheap, they are for folks moving between large cities. This train was a commuter train, the only real way to get from Lyon to Roanne.

This trip to Taieb wines was far less insane than the trip earlier this year from London, that trip was too crazy to even believe. This one was far simpler, other than the Hotel California issue. That said, overall it took two trains and an automobile to get Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and me from Strasbourg to Roanne. Yoni Taieb from Taieb Wines was so kind as to pick us up from the Roanne train station and take us to the offices.

Sadly, there had been a death in the family so George Taieb, Yoni Taieb’s father, could not join us, but Yoni was so nice to facilitate the tasting.

Kosher wine pricing again

If you look at the kosher wine producers/facilitators in France, Taieb comes out far ahead in regards to their pricing and quality. I love that we have kosher Chateau Leoville Poyferre or Smith Haut Lafitte, but those prices are crazy, absolutely bonkers, especially when you see their non-kosher pricing (showing at double the price). Again, I have spoken about pricing many times, and no matter how often I talk about it, it is still crazy to me, that we pay such high prices for kosher wine.

There are two issues here. One is that the big-name wines are super expensive and this issue continues to disallow others from enjoying such wines, given the price tag. Secondly, the lower stature wines, ones that are still fun to enjoy and QPR wines, are far and few between, when you look at the sub-20 dollar bracket. Look at Kosherwine.com and tell me how many sub-20 dollar QPR wines exist? In red, there is THREE, 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux, the 2018 Elvi Herenza Rioja, and the 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon. THREE wines I would buy for under 20 dollars and two fo them are Mevushal! Under 10 dollars there are none.

In France, under 10 Euros, there are MANY! There lies in the issue. Obviously, to get a wine from France to here takes hands and hands cost money, but Taieb had four wines that I would buy under 10 Euros. If they were brought here, they would probably cost 20 dollars. Overall, this is the issue. The second you add hands into the picture it gets too expensive. Royal Wines makes the wines, imports the wines, and sells them to distributors. So, within all that, you have cut out many hands that would otherwise raise the cost structures. If Taieb exported the lovely 2018 Baron David, Bordeaux, which costs 9 or so Euros and even less when on sale, and the importer added his costs, this wine would probably sell for 23 dollars. This is what is so broken with the system. Of course, I have no issue with people making a living! That is not the discussion here. The issue I have is that there are MANY sub-10 dollar wines from France in the USA and some are quite nice, even scored a 90 by Wine Spectator. That is just one example. I do not get it. Are we saying that these wines, yes it is sold by Costco and Trader Joe’s, so their margins may be a bit thinner? But do they not make money? Does the importer not make money? The winery? The Distributor in the USA? The non-kosher market for sub-10 dollar wines follows the same system as kosher wines. So, please where is the money going? The kosher supervision on wines like this are a total joke, maybe 20 cents a bottle, so please move on from that. Why is it so hard to import this Baron David and make it work for everyone? Why is it not that difficult for the non-kosher market? There lies in my question!

Anyway, in France, these wines are a wonderful buy and I hope those that live there get a chance to taste them, as they are 100% worth the money!

So, to repeat the Taieb wines in the USA are hard to find, other than the Burgundy wines, because of the horrible wine distribution of Victor Wines and Touton wines, here in the USA. It is a shame as they make some very solid QPR (for France pricing) wines. You can find some of the wines here but most of them are just in France. With that said, Saratoga Wine Exchange, out of NY, seems to stock almost all of the wines, I have no idea why as they are not a kosher wine or near a large Jewish community. Still, that is only for the few wines that are imported here in the first place. Vive la France for QPR kosher wines!

Taieb Wines

Yoni Taieb and the wines

Taieb started making kosher spirits 50 years ago and since then he has added kosher wine to the company. Many of the Bordeaux wines that he now makes have been in production for decades. Taieb is famous for the Phenix Anisette, a liquor made from Anis.

Recently, I have been loving the wines coming from Taieb, because they are making some really great Burgundy wines, including maybe the best Burgs to be made kosher in quite some time, the epic Domaine Lescure and the 2012 Domaine d’Ardhuy Gevrey-Chambertin, which may well be the best Burgundy in some time, though I find the 2014 Domaine Lescure to be as good.

Taieb has been spoiling us with great Burgundy wines and the only reason why we know about them is because of Nathan Grandjean and Andrew Breskin. Sadly, distribution of these and many of the lovely Bordeaux wines from Taieb have no distribution here in the USA, without Breskin. Victor Wines officially imports Taieb Wines, but the wines rarely show on shelves, I really hope this will be fixed soon, as the Taieb wines I had in France were wonderful.

Sadly, Domaine d’Ardhuy stopped doing kosher wines with Taieb, after the 2015 vintage. The Domaine Lescure was epic in 2014 and 2015, it had a hiccup with the 2016 vintage, but the 2017 vintage is lovely as well!

The line of kosher wines that Taieb produces includes entry-level wines for restaurants and weddings. It then has a myriad of wines at the next level, from lovely a Sancerre wine to Brouilly wines. The next level includes some very solid Bordeaux wines and Burgundy wines as well. Read the rest of this entry

Tasting of Royal’s 2017 and some 2018 French wines in France

This is my third year tasting wines with Menahem Israelievitch in Paris and it is the first one that is not related to my visit to Bordeaux three years ago, almost to the date of this tasting (give or take two weeks). Three years ago, I was given the opportunity to taste many of the 2015 and 2016 wines from the barrel at each of the wineries in Bordeaux.

The 2014 vintage to me, was crazy fun because it is less ripe than the 2015 or 2016 vintages. They were also FAR cheaper. Then you had the 2015 wines which were more expensive and far riper than the 2014 vintage. This 2016 vintage is the best of both worlds, but it comes at a crazy high price. I warned you at that time, during the epic post of my visit to Bordeaux with Mr. Israelievitch, that you better start saving your money, sadly nothing has changed about that. The REAL shocker price-wise of the 2016 vintage was Chateau Malartic, which rose to almost 150 or more a bottle! That was close to double the 2014 vintage.

In a previous post about the most recent French wines (at that time in 2017) that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.

20191118_145425.jpg

While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, the 2017 vintage is not like that at all. The 2017 vintage in Bordeaux, though this is a massive simplification and generalization of the 2017 vintage, was overall less ripe than the 2015/16 vintages and maybe even in some cases a drop less than the 2014 vintage. The 2017 vintage flowered early and then the frost came, which killed off a fair amount of the fruit from the vines (Grapevines are self-pollinating and as such the flowers are an all-or-nothing situation in regards to yield). Quality itself is not affected by the early frost which froze the flowers, while the rest of the season was mostly OK, except for the late rains that diluted some of the acidity, again this is an overall generalization, with varying degrees of difference between the Chateaus.

The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels. More wines are being made Mevushal and while I wonder if this is good overall for myself, it makes sense for Royal wines, which in the end, I guess is what matters to them. Will this be an issue? In the past, I have found that the mevushal work of Mr. Israelievitch is top-notch, and really just ages the wine rather than ruining it.

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2017 vintage will be, the 2017 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2017 Chateau Greysac, 2017 Chateau Chateau de Parsac, 2017 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, 2017 Chateau Le Crock, 2017 Cuvee Hautes Terres, Chateau Fourcas Dupre, along with the whites wines, the 2018 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay, the 2018 Les Marronniers, Chablis,  and the 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc.

Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below – absolutely! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years.

Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. While that sounds obvious, I am just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that clearly affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.

Tasting in Paris

I landed in Paris, got showered and the such, and then made my way to lunch with Menahem Israelievitch. This year I was not alone in my tasting, I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. After lunch, we went to a lovely home to do the tasting. The wines were all laid out in the order for the tasting, and one by one we went through the 30 wines. There was one missing wine, the 2018 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur and two of the wines were bad, I did taste them later in the week and they are listed here as if I tasted them at the tasting.

My many thanks to Menahem Israelievitch for going out of his way to help me to taste all the current French wines from Royal Wines before they were publicly released. The labels on the pictures may not all have a kosher symbol, but that was because they rushed some of the bottles to Mr. Israelievitch before they were properly labeled with supervision symbols attached. My many thanks to Mr. Israelievitch, Royal Europe, and Royal Wines for making this tasting possible in the first place, and secondly, for taking the time to taste the wines with me.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis – Score: 93 (QPR madness) (Mevushal)
This wine is made with native yeasts and as little manipulation as possible. The nose on this wine is beautiful with orange blossom, yellow apple, and rosehip, with lemon curd, and yeasty and creamy notes. This is so much better than the 2016 or 2017 vintage, this is so much fun! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy fun, intense acidity, incredible salinity, piercing, almost painful, with lovely layers of lemon, grapefruit, with quince, and pie crust, with Anjou pear, and quince. The finish is long, crazy long, almost oily, mostly creamy, with baked pear and apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and loads of mineral, with slate, rock, and saline. Bravo!! Drink until 2023 maybe 2024.

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis, Premier Cru, Cote de Jouan – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR)
The nose on this wine is closed, but it shows lovely notes of mineral, slate, blossom water, and loads of citrus, with apple, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is rich, layered, and impressive, with a rich oily mouthfeel, showing a lovely weight, with yellow apple, tart citrus, Asian Pear, and beautiful acidity that is well integrated with a strong mineral core, showing Orange pith, with tart citrus and slate and yellow plum, with saline, and more earth and hints of nectarines and orange. Lovely! Drink from 2020 to 2024 may be longer. Read the rest of this entry

2016 Chateau Lamothe-Cissac (kosher)

I recently had the chance to sit down and taste this wine in my house. I tasted it twice at KFWE and in the end, it was better in the home, after it had the chance to decant and show its real potential.

The wine is made at Domaines Fabre in the Haut-Médoc AOC. The wine is classified under Cru Bourgeois, which while may not be a top classification, includes 267 estates today! One of my all-time favorites is under the Cru Bourgeois classification, Fourcas Dupre!

The classification has wineries from many regions on the left bank and the vast majority of these wines are Cabernet Sauvignon dominated.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Chateau Lamothe-Cissac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc – Score: 91 (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot. This is a fun wine, remember that we have not yet seen the big wines of 2016. As I have said many times on this blog, the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux may well be better than the 2015 vintage! For now, the few 2016 reds we have seen from Bordeaux are showing nicely.
The nose on this wine shows very nicely with rich loam, dirt, green notes, followed by bright and big black fruit, with hints of mushroom in the background, lovely mint, and menthol notes abound as well. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun and alive, with screaming acid, that gives way to intense tannin that is soft and yet rich and mouth coating, with great fruit focus, showing blackcurrant, blackberry, with red cherry, and olives, that give way to green notes, mouth scraping mineral, foliage, and tobacco. The finish is long and green, at the start it is a bit too astringent and green to truly enjoy, with time it comes around with nice spice, earth, graphite, sour notes, more red and black fruit, and nice coffee/chocolate mix. Nice! It can be drunk now, but to really appreciate it, I would decant it for a good 3 hours, to cut some of the green and astringent notes. Drink now (with decanting) till 2027.

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