A wine tasting of some great and sadly poor to uninspired 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 kosher French wines with Nathan Grandjean
When I last left off on the story of my trip to France, I had just ended an epic tasting of the new 2017 wines from Royal Wines. I then jumped on a train, and I was once again joined by Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and we made our way to Strasbourg for a tasting of Alsace wines and other wines that are not made by Royal. It included some new 2016, 2017, and 2018 wines, but once again it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintage.
2018 French wines to the rescue
Now, I need to get on my soapbox for two major topics, the first is how AWESOME the 2018 vintage is showing right now. At this tasting and again with Yoni Taieb of Taieb Wines, the 2018 vintage shows itself incredibly well wit the simple entry-level wines of Bordeaux. It takes them from tinny and boring wines to rich and well-balanced wines, that sell for 8 euros or less! This is something that we will never get in the USA! Sadly, the only wine that comes close to this is the 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux and maybe the 2018 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur, but I think this wine will be above the 10 dollar price of the Chateau Les Riganes.
On the trip to France, two things came up often, when I was speaking French with the natives, something I was not able to do as much with Avi around, as Avi still needs to learn French! One, and this really shocked me, was how common French folk think California is dangerous when I would tell them where I am from, because of all the media of the horrific shootings we have had in our state. Besides that, the Jews I spoke to, especially the ones who drink kosher wine, complain bitterly about the cost of French wines! The more I look at this issue the more it makes me wonder, why are the wines so expensive? Yes, there is a cost for kosher supervision, but that cost does not explain the double or triple pricing of the non-kosher cost. That question is even more exaggerated in France, where there is no three-legged-stool in regards to wine distribution. Yes, France has Negociants, but for the lower level wines that is a practice that is going the way of the dodo bird.
The truth is that what is needed are reasonably priced wines. Avi Davidowitz, on his Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog scores wines partially based upon price. I do not agree for many reasons, which we discussed over our trip, but it does NOT diminish the overarching issue which is 100% true, kosher wine prices have gotten 100% OUT OF CONTROL. Sorry, this is insane and before someone tells me it is the Chateau’s fault for having such high En Primeur pricing, the kosher wine prices are shockingly higher. This really needs to be rebooted, IMHO, but sadly, it will stay the same until we get into a serious crunch or glut, whichever occurs first. Yes, we are blessed with some QPR wines, and I always post about them, but overall, the grand cru wines are getting out of control.
That is why I am so happy with the 2018 simple wines from Bordeaux. Sadly they will not come to the USA under those prices, but for those in France, there are serious options.
2015 and 2016 Magrez wines are a total failure, IMHO
Last year, I wrote that this post was coming, but I had to taste the 2015 and 2016 Pape Clement first before I could make my feelings clear. At this point, I have tasted the 2015 Magrez reds 5 times and the 2016 whites 2 times. I am 100% comfortable with saying they have all taken a seriously far step backward from the epic 2014 vintage. The 2014 Magrez were world-class wines and wines I have bought happily. However, I can not say the same for any of the 2015 or 2016 kosher Magrez wines I have tasted to date. I was very disappointed when I tasted the kosher 2015 Pape Clement, and I was shocked by the results of the 2015 Tour Carnet, Fombrouge, and others. The 2016 Pape Clement is better than the 2015 vintage, but it is not worth the bottle it is in. The whites have all also lost a few serious steps from the 2014 vintage. Personally, I will not be buying any of the 2015 or 2016 Magrez wines I tasted, other than the Pape Clement wines I tasted that I bought En Primeur.
Now, with that aside, I can clearly state that the wines are not undrinkable, they are not date juice, they are not unprofessionally made, they are simply boring, lackluster, and flat, with little to grab your attention. They are simply not wines worthy of the price or their names, sadly, they are what they are.
I miss Weingut Von Hovel and the Gefen-Hashalom wines
Two years ago Nathan Grandjean and I made a run for Von Hovel, and I wanted to do that again year after year, and maybe even Nik Weis. Sadly, they told me there were no new wines for 2017 or 2018, and now I just heard there was none made in 2019 either. 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 2020.
Wine Tasting at Nathan Grandjean
After last year’s solid tasting with Nathan Grandjean, I had tasted all of the 2015 French wines that I know of. The 2016/2017/2018 wines are slowly being released, from producers other than Royal. Kosher Wine International, the producers for all the Magrez wines, has now fully released the 2015 wines. Two days after this tasting we would be tasting Taieb wines, but we wanted to taste the 2017 Domaine Lescure Pommard, so that was on the list.
After last year’s tasting of a few Magrez 2015 wines and my other tastings of them at two wine events, I wanted the chance to taste them YET AGAIN, with both of the Pape Clement and the new 2016 Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes. So, I had Nathan get all the 2015 and 2016 Magrez wines that are available and we tasted them over two days. Thankfully, we also had a couple of wonderful wines and some duds.
Finally, we tasted all of Nathan Grandjean’s Les Vins de Vienne wines from both the 2017 vintage and the 2018 whites. He had some tank samples of the 2018 reds, but honestly, they were not ready for me to write proper notes on. Read the rest of this entry
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 an A- to A 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.
This year I am adding 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 not the QPR King of 2017, that went to the 2016 Chateau Les Riganes. No, this year “the wine of the year” is indeed a QPR superstar, but not the king, it is the 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley. The best wine of the year, well that was easy, it is the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. So, yes, that means that the top wines of the year are 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 Chateau Pape Clement, which I am sure would have been on this list if I had tasted it, or the 2015 Hajdu Proprietary Red. 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 2014 and 2015 French Grand Vin wines within the same year! The 2014 vintage wines were released in 2017 and the 2015 wines were released (in France in 2017 as well)! 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 all we had this year that were exceptional, were epic Rieslings from Germany (Von Hovel) and the fantastic sweet wines from Sauterne and Yaacov Oryah. But dry white wines from elsewhere in the world was sadly lacking. There were a few exceptions, and they were all Chardonnays, but to me, the winner in that story (dry white wine that was not a German Riesling), was the 2015 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River. It does not rate in the wine of the year list, but it is in the interesting wines below. The new Chablis is also nice, as is the Shirah Whites.
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 2017 kosher wine of the year!
This one was a no-brainer to me. The 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley is a crazily affordable wine that got rave reviews from me and from the press. Congratulations to Herzog Winery and Royal Wines.
2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR Superstar)
Lovely nose, impressive elegant and old world nose, peaking with a blackcurrant showing blackberry and lovely smoke and tar. The mouth is old world, wow, give me a break, in ways the wine is crazy better than the Warneke (Special Edition), but with years the Warneke will pass it. The mouth on this medium body, is great layered and rich, green, spicy, and rich with concentration, with sweet oak and sweet dill galore, with green notes, loads of foliage, showing dried strawberry, ripe raspberry, black forest berry, all wrapped in mouth coating and drying tannin, with earth and spice. The finish is long, and richly green, with nice spicy notes, leather and scraping mineral, showing bright and ripe fruit that is impressive, elegant, rich, and layered, with licorice, graphite, and forest floor that lingers long. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2030.
The 2017 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 Von Hovel Rieslings of 2014 or the 2014 Tour Blanche Sauternes, or the 2015 Chateau Giscours, or the 2014 Chateau Smith Haute Lafitte. 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 2017 goes to the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and it deserves the crown – bravo!!
2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this wine is rich and black, with floral hints, smoke, mineral, and really pushed for now, but incredible and redolent with a perfume of ripe fruit, chocolate, and green notes. The mouth is rich and layered with an incredible finesse of perfection, richly extracted and incredible with rich mineral and saline that is so perfectly hedonistic it is impressive, with chocolate heaven, showing earth, loam, finesse, and elegance beyond explanation, showing soft yet focused with a tight-mouthfeel, with rich raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, all focused and concentrated with perfection. The finish is long and rich and paired with an acid and mineral that is never-ending, almost ripe and tart at the same time, with draping tannin, graphite, and charcoal with expressive and focus. Drink from 2022 to 2040.
Rest of the top 25 kosher wines of 2017
2015 Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse – Score: 94
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. What a nose, this wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and a drop of merlot. This nose is green and red and really mineral focused with dark but red fruit focused, showing lovely elegance, dirt, and herb. The mouth is medium bodied with rich extraction, rich currant, red fruit, with dirt in the background, wrapped in rich and searcing tannin mouthfeel, with roasted herb, and rich tobacco that is backed by elegance and control, blackberry, plum, that gives way to dark chocolate epic control, foliage, and oregano that lingers long with graphite, pencil shavings, and rich leather. Drink from 2024 to 2034
2015 Chateau Giscours – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this lovely wine is super dry, with more of a classic Bordeaux nose, less ripe than some of the previous wines, with the ever classic blueberry notes of Giscours, with black and red fruit galore backed by roasted herb, rich mineral, and lovely saline. The mouth is rich, incredible, massive, full-bodied and incredibly extracted with rich saline, with layers of unstoppable concentrated fruit, with blackberry, raspberry, with blueberry, rich spice, mushroom, and herb. The finish is never ending with green notes, roasted herb, incredible drying tannin, with a deep fruit base followed by the mineral, black fruit, earth, graphite, and rich spice, cloves, and dark chocolate. BRAVO! Drink from 2023 to 2035
2015 Chateau Lascombes – Score: 94.
WOW, how this wine changed from when we tasted it in the barrel. This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 3 to 4% Petit Verdot. It is the flagship wine of Chateau Lascombes. The nose on this wine is even crazier than the Chevalier, showing more umami and soy sauce if that is possible, with incredible finesse, showing massive power, but great mineral and concentration, with black and red fruit, foliage galore with tar and roasted animal. The mouth is full bodied and incredible with the same style as the Chevalier, but with more finesse, mouth coating soft tannin that is extracted with blue fruit, earth, rich concentration, with more saline and power, yet showing incredible precision that is coating and impressive. The finish is long and lovely, with saline, mineral, tobacco, refined dark chocolate, and rich mushroom. Incredible! Drink from 2022 to 2032. Read the rest of this entry