As stated I was in Paris in May, and the first tasting I had on the trip was at the offices of Les Vin IDS. I know I said I was done with asides but this one is about wine. Remember that my QPR standard means Quality to Price Ratio! Well, the price fluctuates with currency. Most of us do not think about it but it does! We are all feeling it now with inflation but a very nice aside, at least if you are using US Dollars in Europe is that the US Dollar has almost reached parity with the Euro, and that made for a wonderful trip!
All my purchases were discounted by the Euro and that made the QPR scores a bit better but overall I stayed with either the Euro or the US dollar prices (AKA US prices). More on that below.
So, with that aside, let us get to the IDS tasting.
The tasting was a two-part wine event. The first part featured IDS wines while the second part featured wines that Ben Sitruk of Wine Symphony. This included wines from Ari Cohen’s new wine business Bakus, wines from Domaine Roses Camille, and some wines from Cantina Giuliano and the Toscana from Terra di Seta. This post will focus on the Le Vins IDS and the next post will follow up with the other wines.
Le Vin IDS Wines
As I stated in my Paris trip preamble post, the timing for the trip was not great. This year because of so many supply chain issues June or late June would have been better, but there was no way I was going to go to France at that time for so many reasons.
Even last year, in November 2021, the timing was nice but I missed tasting many of the IDS wines that had to wait until this trip, by maybe 1 month at most. Still, I enjoyed the tasting for many reasons as will become apparent quickly.
It turned out that Alexandre Kassel was going to be in Paris at the same time I was there so we had some shared tastings. This was one of them and it was great to hang with him. It had been far too long since I had hung out with Alexandre, mostly because of COVID and my not being in Israel for such a long time.
As soon as we entered the office we were graced with blind tasting bags on the bottles. I thought this is great! I love tasting wine blind, Alexander and I used to do that all the time when we tasted wines in Israel. So, it felt so correct to be doing it again. In the end, as you will see, there were two wines on the list that we were not expecting as we had them a few times so it helped to add some amount of doubt to what we “knew” when entering the room.
As is customary, I ask Ben to open the windows to air out the room, as soon as I enter, as the smell of tobacco ash is always insufferable. I understand France is one of the few advanced nations in the world where smoking is still a thing. I have never tolerated it, the smell makes me retch, so Ben is always so kind to air out the room before we begin tasting his wonderful wines.
Once that was done I took in the room and I realized the tasting was going to be blind, as the bottles were in bags and this brought a broad smile to my face. I love blind tastings. The two roses and two white wines were not tasted blind, I guess because there was not enough variation, but the reds were all going to be blind.
White and Roses
The first 4 wines we tasted were the current whites and roses from Les Vin IDS. These wines were not tasted blind. One of them is a favorite of mine, the 2018 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent – a lovely white Bordeaux which started a bit slow for me in 2019 but it has blossomed recently and I love it!
That was followed by the latest vintage of the 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Blanc, Cru Classe. This is a wine made from Vermentino and I like it. Some find the oak a bit too much but it did not bother me as much. Next was the 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Rose, Cru Classe, a lovely Rose, but like last year, a slight step behind the bigger brother, the 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Fantastique Rose, Cru Classe. The 2021 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Fantastique Rose, Cru Classe is the best rose I have tasted so far and it is lovely. Still, for the price, it is all a matter of QPR.
The next 5 wines were tasted blind and were tasted in the order they are found below. The entire list below is in the order the wines were tasted. As I will start to reveal slowly, I have changed how I take notes. Many have seen it but to keep it simple I use Google forms, which also has a spreadsheet behind it, which means my notes will be searchable, but more on that at a different time.
The point of me telling you all this is that I normally know the wines when I post them. This time, I named the wines based on the color of the bag. Later, at reveal time (thankfully no explosions), I updated the forms with the real names and the ABV and such. It also meant that the pictures were not great, my apologies, but they show what matters and in the end, that is all that matters.
Also, by the time the tasting was over it was very clear who had won the 2019 big red war, at least up until this point, more on that below. So, let us get to the tasting.
The first wine was the green bag and it was nice enough but nothing that blew me away. It did not show in a very special manner and I thought it was the Le Benjamin, but the 2019 Le Benjamin was not as good as this wine. I wrote the notes, but I never thought it was a Valendraud. It turned out this wine was the 2011 Virginie de Valendraud, which I did not remember ever tasting, but indeed I had it some five-plus years ago. The notes are not that far apart, I would drink this in the next few years.
The next wine was in the red bag and now things were looking up the wine was a clear step up, the fruitiness was calmer, and it was also clearly a younger wine, but beyond that, I had no idea what I was tasting. It turned out the wine was the 2019 L’Esprit de Chevalier. It is a blend 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. I do not remember anything else screaming out beyond what I wrote in the notes. It was a bit stunted in the nose and floral but otherwise, nice young wine with potential was my takeaway. This is yet another wine from the Pessac-Legonan region, we seem to be having a fair number of them in the kosher wine market. This is the 2nd wine from the famous Domaine de Chevalier.
The next wine was in the yellow/orange wine bottle and with one sniff things were looking up once again. Again, from the nose and taste, this was a step up but not a wine that rang any bell for me. It felt tart, bright, and elegant, but also dense and ripe, all at the same time. Quite a lovely experience, I hoped this was NOT the Smith Haut Lafitte while tasting this as it was a nice wine but not what I was expecting from the 2019 vintage of SHL. Sure enough, we were rewarded with the next wine to prove that it was not the Smith. Overall, the wine was lovely, and in France, this is very close to a WINNER (still a GREAT QPR score, but very close), while here in the USA, the pricing moves it too far out of the WINNER range. the wine is the 2019 Chateau Marquis d’Alesme Becker, Margaux.Read the rest of this entry
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.
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.
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
I was in NYC for a few days and I had the opportunity to have dinner with Dr. Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers, one of M’s in M & M (I just think Ralph secretly loved M&Ms as a child, but hey).
The current lineup of wines is the following:
2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria (tasted in past)
2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Marciliano, Umbria (note below)
2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Montiano, Lazio (note below)
2014 Chateau Leroy-Beauval, Bordeaux Superieur (tasted in past)
2016 Chateau Haut Brisson, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (tasted in past)
2016 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (tasted in past)
2018 Valle Reale Botteotto Montepulciano, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (not yet tasted)
2015 Chateau Labegorce, Margaux (tasted in past)
2015 Virginie de Valandraud, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (tasted in past)
2016 Chateau Leydet-Valentin, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (not yet tasted)
2011 Chateau de Valois, Pomerol (note below)
2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Pommard, Reserve Personnelle (note below)
2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, Reserve Personnelle (note below)
2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Gevrey-Chambertin, Reserve Personnelle (note below)
2016 Château La Tour de By, Heritage Marc Pages, Médoc (note below)
2018 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent, Bordeaux (note below)
NV Janisson & Fils Champagne Brut Rose (tasted in past)
NV Janisson & Fils Champagne Brut Blanc (tasted in past)
While the IDS portfolio is impressive, I find the Italian wines more impressive, Italy is where I truly believe Kosher wine can shine. Of course, the French wines from IDS and those that M&M have imported are very impressive and really shows the power and potential of France for kosher wines.
The focus of the tasting were the 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter wines. They were all very impressive, the wines are super young now and have a long way to go. Still, as much I really liked them, they are a step behind the current kosher star of Burgundy Domaine Lescure. I have put in my order for all three 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter wines and I hope to watch them evolve. For now, do not waste your money tasting them, store them away and start opening them up 6 years from now. Still, the best wine at the tasting was the 2016 Château La Tour de By, Heritage Marc Pages, it is a rich, racy, and in-your-face Medoc wine that should be a sure buy by all.
My many thanks to Ralph and his partner for sharing their wines with us, the wine notes follow below:
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent, Bordeaux – Score: 91 to 92
This wine is a blend of 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose on this wine is lovely, with flint, rock, gooseberry, citrus, and green notes, with orange blossom, yellow fruit, and earth. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine comes at you in layers of fruit, with a nice integrated acid, showing green notes, tart with asparagus, yellow plum, dry straw, with mineral, lovely smoke, tart fruit, rock, and grapefruit and lemon/lime. The finish is long, green, with orange notes, and mineral that lingers long forever. Drink by 2023. Read the rest of this entry