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My top 25 kosher wines of 2020 including Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, and the best Wine of the Year awards

Like last year, I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple. I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored a 92 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” along with categories I added last year, “Winery of the Year”, “Best White wine of the year”. Wine of the year goes to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title.

This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my state on kosher wine overall. In the past, I had not yet tasted the pape Clement or other such wines. However, over the past year, those have been covered, and they were a serious letdown. As stated in the article, I truly believe the entire kosher production of the Megrez wines, following the EPIC 2014 vintage of the Pape Clement and others, to be below quality and seriously overpriced, and without value in every category, which is a true shame. The 2015 reds are all poor quality and the whites are not much better, in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 Pape Clement, while better, is a total ripoff for what it is. As I will talk about in my year in review post, 2014 will come out as the best vintage for the past decade in France. That is a hotly debated subject, but IMHO, in the world of kosher wine, there were FAR more best wine options in the 2014 vintage than any other vintage in the past decade. That may not be the case for non-kosher wines, but news flash, I do not drink non-kosher wines, or even taste them, and further this blog is about kosher wines. The 2018 vintage may well have some serious “best wine of the year” candidates, but sadly, not all of those wines are here and I could not travel to France to taste them all, as I do commonly.

There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year. If last year, I thought the roses were pure junk, this year, you can add another nail in the coffin of rose wines, IMHO. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was more a task of removing then adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – just not like a few years ago when that bounty included many 95 and 95+ scoring wines.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2018 French wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany, still. Thankfully, we have some awesome new entries, from the 2017 and 2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, both Grand Cru and Premier Cru, and the new 2019 Meursault!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well.

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 2020 kosher wine of the year – is a return to its greatness – the 2018 Elvi Wines EL26

Elvi EL26 is back! Back to the glory days and I have stocked up and sadly, it will sell out quickly, if it is not already sold out! Get a move on, there was not a huge production of this beauty!

So, why did EL26 win? Simple, it is a great wine, and then throw in its WINNER price, and this wine punches at two levels, at the same time! You can read more about this fantastic wine here, in my post about it. Enjoy!

2018 Elvi Wines EL26, Elite, Priorat – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 80% Garnacha (Grenache) and 20% Carignan. This wine is pure heaven, dirt, smoke, roasted animal, saline, mineral, juicy tart red, and blue fruit, with incredible precision and fruit focus – Bravo!
The nose on this wine is pure fun, showing tart red fruit, incredible fresh loam, and dirt, hints of mushroom, licorice, roasted animal, a whiff of oak, sage, rosemary, with dirt, and green notes. This wine is currently far more Bordeaux in style than that of a Spanish Priorat! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is not overly extracted, but it is well extracted, with good mouth and fruit texture, with incredible acid, good fruit focus, showing dark cherry, plum, ripe and tart raspberry, strawberry, oak, vanilla, and garrigue, with green notes, and lovely mouth-draping tannin. The finish is long, green, yet ripe, with great control and precision, with lovely graphite, more roasted meat, scraping minerality, saline, rich smoking tobacco, and smoke, lots of char and smoke. Bravo! With time the wine opens more and shows its riper side, still very controlled, but the fun red and blue fruit become a bit fuller and richer in the mouth – quite an impressive wine! Drink from 2026 until 2036. (tasted December 2020)

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Tasting of Royal Wine’s 2018 and some 2019 French wines in California

Well, it is official, 2020 continues to take, and though my annoyances are minor in comparison to the pain others are feeling, it still has impacted my routine, which I guess is the story of 2020. For the past three years, I have been tasting Royal’s latest wines with the man in France for Royal, Menahem Israelievitch. Sadly, this year, no matter how much I planned and tried, it is a no go. So, for the first time, in a long time, the tasting will be here in Cali and it will only be a small part of the 2018 and 2019 wines, such is life.

So, no there will not be a picture with all the wines, and some of the wines from last year are still not here right now! But, I will post here what I did taste so far, and my overall feeling of the 2018 and 2019 vintages.

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, and the 2017 vintage was not ripe at all, the 2018 vintage makes the 2015 ripeness look tame! Now that is a very broad-stroke statement that cannot be used uniformly, but for the most part, go with it!

I see no reason to repeat what Decanter did – so please read this and I will repeat a few highlights below.

For a start, the drought came later in 2018,’ says Marchal, pointing out that early July saw less rain in 2016. ‘But when it came in 2018, it was more abrupt, with the green growth stopping across the whole region at pretty much the same time’. He sees it closer to 2009, but with more density to the fruit. … and high alcohols!

Alcohols will be highest on cooler soils that needed a long time to ripen, so the Côtes, the Satellites, and the cooler parts of St-Emilion have alcohols at 14.5-15%abv and more. I heard of one Cabernet Franc coming in at 16.5%abv, but that is an exception. In earlier-ripening areas, such as Pessac-Léognan and Pomerol, alcohols are likely to be more balanced at 13.5% or 14%abv, as they will have reached full phenolic ripeness earlier.

‘Pessac-Léognan did the best perhaps because it’s an early ripening site,’ said Marie-Laurence Porte of Enosens, ‘so they were able to get grapes in before over-concentration. If you had to wait for phenolic ripeness, that is where things could get difficult’.

The final averages per grape, according to Fabien Faget of Enosens, are Sauvignon Blanc 13.5%abv, Sémillon 12.5%abv, Merlot 14.5%abv, and Cabernet Sauvignon 14%abv’.

The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels, a fact I wonder about more and more. Look, if you are going to force Mevushal wine down our throats, why not import BOTH? If you look at the numbers for wines like we will taste in the post, the majority of the buyers are not restaurants or caterers. Sorry! No matter how much Royal Wines wants to fool itself into thinking. Throw in COVID and FORGET about this INSANITY, please! I beg of you!

There is no denying that it affects the wine, it does. I have tasted the Chateau Le Crock side by side, the Mevushal, and non-Mevushal and while I feel that Royal does a good job with the boiling, it is still affected. If you want to have Mevushal wines in the USA, then bring them BOTH in! Royal does this for Capcanes Peraj Petita and the undrinkable Edom and others in Israel. So what Royal is saying is – that could not sell the Chateau Le Crock numbers that they import into the USA without boiling it? Why else would they feel forced to boil it and import it if not otherwise? To me, it makes me sad, and in a way, it disrespects what Royal is trying to do to its French wine portfolio, IMHO. They should, at minimum, import both! Allow for the caterers and restaurants (like anyone needs that nowadays – HUH???) to have the Mevushal version and sell the non-mevushal version to us, as you do with Edom and Petita. There I have stated my peace, I am 100% sure I will be ignored – but I have tried!

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2018/2019 vintage will be, the 2018 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2018 Chateau Greysac, 2018 Chateau Chateau de Parsac, 2018 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, 2018 Chateau Le Crock, 2019 Chateau Les Riganes, Red, 2018 Chateau Genlaire, along with the whites wines, the 2019 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay, the 2019 Les Marronniers, Chablis,  and the 2019 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 of. 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 – yes! 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 affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.

The “other” wines not here yet or I have not had

There is the just-released 2018 Château Cantenac Brown Margaux (will post that when I get it), along with these yet unreleased wines. The 2019 Chateau Gazin Blanc (2018 was/is INCREDIBLE), 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, 2018 Château Meyney Saint Estèphe, 2018 Chateau Giscours, 2018 Chateau Lascombes, 2018 Chatyeau Tertre, and 2018 Chateau Royaumont.

I understand this is a sub-optimal situation and blog post. It does not cover Royal’s 2018/2019 European wine portfolio. Still, it covers what has been released (or very close to it), here in the USA, and hopefully, it will help you. One day soon, I hope and pray, things will return to some semblance of normalcy, and we will all travel around again. Until then, this is the best I can do. Stay safe!

Final comments, disclaimer, and warnings

First, there are a TON of QPR winners but there are also a LOT of good wines that I will be buying. Please NOTE vintages. The 20016 Haut Condissas is a disaster while the 2017 vintage is fantastic! So, please be careful!

These wines are widely available in the USA, so support your local wine stores folks – they need your help! If you live in a wine-drinking desert, like California, support the online/shipping folks on the side of this blog. They are folks I buy from (as always – I NEVER get a bonus/kickback for your purchases – NOT MY STYLE)!

Sadly, there was no plane trip, no hotels, no restaurants, nothing. So, no trip to talk about – just the wines and my lovely home! Stay safe all and here are the wines I have had so far. I have also posted many scores of 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 wines which are still for sale here in the USA. My many thanks to Royal Wine for their help in procuring some of these wines. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

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My top 25 kosher wines of 2018 including wine of the year and best wine of the year awards

Like last year, I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored a 93 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the best wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year”. Wine of the year will go to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. This year, it is one of the QPR Kings of 2018. Yes, last year, we had a single QPR King, this year, there are a few. Why? Because as I will discuss in my year in review, 2018 was about having more solid wines than having GREAT wines. Sure there is a clear Best wine of the year, which is revealed below, but 2018 will be remembered for having MANY very enjoyable wines, rather than a few GREAt wines.

Also, yes, the Wine of the year and the Best wine of the year, both made by Royal wines, such is life, and I could care less for the most part.

Again, the list is missing wines I have yet to taste, like the 2015/2016 Chateau Pape Clement, which I am sure would have been on this list if I had tasted them. There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, they did not even crack the interesting list. Also, this year, we were given a bounty of top wines and finding the list this year was really a task of removing then adding.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2015 and 2016 French Grand Vin wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany. Thankfully, we had Domaine Netofa and Yaccov Oryah Wines to come to the rescue. On top of that, we had another EPIC year for 2016 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River. This year, quite deservedly, it cracked the top 25 wines of the year! The new Chablis is also nice, but the winner in the “very close” section has to be the 2016 Koenig Riesling – Bravo guys!

Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.

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 2018 kosher wine of the year – we have a TIE!

This one was a NOT a no-brainer to me this year. It was really hard. I wanted to give it to the 2016 Chateau Larcis Jaumat, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, straight up, but it is already sold out, between me and Gabriel Geller, we sold that wine out in no time. So, instead, we will share the winner with the almost impossible to find, aforementioned Larcis Jaumat, along with another from Europe, the 2015 Cantina Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, which is also QPR superstar as well! Congratulations to Cantina Terra di Seta and Royal Wines, and to Chateau Larcis Jaumat, along with an elevated nod of the chapeau to Menahem Israelievitch for finding and curating this wonderful QPR winery tucked into a corner of Saint-Emilion! Bravo!

2016 Chateau Larcis Jaumat, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine starts off open and then closes so tight like an oil drum, this thing is nuts. The wine is made of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, a classic right bank wine from Saint-Emilion. The nose on this wine is really bright, ripe, and intense, with rich intensity, mushroom, earth, but so much redolence, the nose is far more open than the mouth, showing rich blackberry, dark plum, and rich vanilla, followed by herb, mint, rosemary, and green notes galore. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is crazy rich, it does at times remind me of Benyo’s Merlots with a fair amount of blackcurrant thrown in, which is never found on Benyo wines, but the mad acid, rich mouthfeel, closed tight fruit structure has me reminded often of a Four Gates wine, with intense notes, they scream because of the acid, that gives way to rich tannin structure that is searing and yet inviting, with rich cranberry, cherry, and crazy earth, that will give way to mushroom and forest floor with time. The finish is long, really long, lingering, and intense, with gripping tannin, acid, tobacco galore, mounds of blackcurrant, vanilla, herb, foliage, and green notes, that give way to a gripping mouthfeel that will crush anything, with tar, menthol, and more earth. OMG, this Benyo in France! Wow!! Drink from 2021 to 2030.

2015 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92
The nose on this wine is ripe, at first, the wine starts off with heat, but that blows off, but it is also well balanced, with lovely earth, mineral, dirt, with dark cherry, coffee, and lovely dark fruit. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is beautiful, complex, well layered, with rich concentration, nice extraction, all balanced and plush, with rich blackberry, currant, lovely mouth draping tannin, with lovely foliage, and some nice earthy and fruit bite. With time, it shows its ripeness, but also intense minerality, saline, graphite galore, and lovely tannin structure. The finish is long, green, and ripe but balanced, with lovely acid, great texture, that gives way to more coffee, graphite, scarping mineral, and light almond bitterness on the long finish. Bravo!! Drink 2019 to 2023.

The 2018 best kosher wine of the year!

This one was really tough. First of all, the one I chose is not available yet for purchase in the USA. Also, in terms of score, it did not beat out the 2016 Chateau Giscours, 2016 Chateau Lascombes, 2016 Chateau Du Tertre, Margaux, 2016 Chateau Montviel, or 2014 Chateau Tour Seran, Medoc (NOT Mevushal), or the 2014 Chateau Cantenac Brown, which I somehow missed from last year’s top wines. In the end – for its sheer awesomeness it beat out a very crowded field. In the end, the winner of the BEST kosher wine of 2018 goes to the 2016 Chateau Malartic, and it deserves the crown – bravo!!

2016 Chateau Malartic Lagraviere, Pessac-Leognan, Grand Cru Classe – Score: 94
The 2016 Malartic-Lagraviere is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot (at least in the non-kosher version). Wow, the nose is really ripe, not what I expect from a Malartic, but still lovely, with chocolate, black fruit, earth, and lovely hints of umami, with sweet oak, earth, and sweet blue fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, and concentrated with nice control, expressive, with blackberry, blueberry, and what a change, Malartic with blueberry! Showing more raspberry, earth, and rich fruit, with a truly incredible plushness, that gives way to a rich mouth coating tannin that drapes and lifts the mouth, showing a precision, and an incredible professional touch, with plush fruit, loam, and lovely saline. The finish is long, and plush, with more blue, green, and red fruit, with leather, and power that belies its youth, a wine that will push long into its life, with tannin, licorice, and graphite/mineral that lingers long, Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2035. Read the rest of this entry

Top kosher 2017 white wines from around the world

Ok, let’s start with the obvious, I have been so busy this year that I have had zero time to work on these posts. So, ahead of the High Holiday Crescendo, I wanted to post a quick note about the 2017 vintage and my hopes for a great new year, filled with joy, success, health, and lots of great wine to all.

2017 Vintage

So far the 2017 vintage has been much akin to the 2016 vintage – last year. The 2017 roses have been a letdown overall, much akin to the 2016 vintage of roses that were a letdown after the epic 2015 vintage. Sure, we have a few rose winners, like the lovely 2017 Les Lauriers de Rothschild Rose, and the nice 2017 Covenant Blue C Rose, and 2017 Netofa Latour Rosado.

Still, the whites have been a real letdown, much akin to what happened in the 2016 vintages. We have not had a GREAT vintage out of Israel since the INSANELY good 2014 vintage.

So, Israel has been a letdown white wine-wise and rose overall these past few years. But there are some winners as usual. I have yet to taste the 2017 Tzora wines. The Netofa whites are lovely, along with the fun and very enjoyable 2017 Covenant Israel Viognier. There is also some nice Dalton Sauvignon Blanc wines.

The true savior is once again, the old-world region. France has a few great whites! Yes, I said whites! Throw in California, and we have enough whites, just not a bounty.

I hope you enjoy these great white wines in your Succah and with your family. Wishing you all a healthy year signed and delivered!

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

2017 Chateau Lacaussade Saint-Martin, Vieilles Vignes – Score: 90
The wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is very slow to open, it may need a quick decanting, for an hour or so. The nose is slightly tropical in nature with lovely with melon, guava, and hints of passion fruit to start, over time it recedes to show lemongrass, straw, mineral, grapefruit, citrus, and honeysuckle notes. Just like the nose the mouth also starts off with crazy tropical notes that also recede with time, to show a very different wine. After some time, the mouth on this wine is not complex, but very nice, with rich acidity, showing a good balance of fruit, green apple, heather, tart pear, and mineral. The finish is long, super long, with southern tea, and rich acidity, and lovely pith. Drink by 2021.

2017 Chateau Guiraud ‘G’, Sec – Score: 92
Finally, a French white I can really appreciate! This is really fun, the wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, showing notes of pure funk, wax, green notes, with cucumber, mineral, old-world notes, showing honeysuckle, and floral notes, with green apple, quince, lovely straw, and rich minerality. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun, with more funk, nice complexity, with rich salinity, followed by rich dry and tart Asian pear, with nice gooseberry, and graphite. The finish is long and green, with lemongrass, stone, rock, with more wax and flint. Bravo! Drink by 2021.

2017 Jean-Pierre Bailly Pouilly-Fume, Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 92
WOW! This wine has quite the nose, screaming with fresh orange blossom, ripe yellow grapefruit, with hints of nectarines, cat pee, and lovely citrus. The mouth on this unoaked Sauvignon Blanc is dry, bone dry, not quite a Sancerre, but impressive, with lovely weight, and great fruit focus with a crazy core of acid that keeps going long after the wine is gone, followed by rich mineral, slate, saline galore, and a lovely core of lie and lemon that mingle well and play with each other. The finish is long, crazy long, with more mineral, floral notes, lovely bitter notes of citrus pith, and just fun, tart citrus that lingers forever. BRAVO!!! Drink till 2021 Read the rest of this entry

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