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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.

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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

A wine tasting of some incredible 2014 kosher French wines with Nathan Grandjean

When I last left off on the story of my trip to Israel and Europe, I had just ended with a classic run for the border to Weingut Von Hovel. After we returned from visiting Von Hovel we had a wine tasting. It included some new 2016 wines but it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 vintage and earlier.

As I posted here and here, I have been trying to get to all of the 2014 French wines and as many of the 2015 vintages that are released. With this last tasting, I have been able to get to most of the top 2014 kosher French wines that I know of. The two top 2014 kosher Bordeaux wines that I have been able to taste are the 2014 Chateau Pape Clement and the 2014 Smith Haut Lafitte (which I tasted here at this tasting). Right after those superstars come the 2014 Chateau Giscours, 2014 Chateau Malartic, the 2014 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe, the 2014 Chateau Soutard, and the 2014 Chateau Marsac Seguineau. In regards to Sauternes, the two winners are the 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau, 1er Cru Classe, and the 2014 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classe.

I had not been able to taste the Smith Haut Lafitte or the 2014 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classe, until this tasting and they were not a letdown in any manner. WOW, they were worth the trip and worth stocking up where and if possible.

If you are interested in these wines, they are mostly wines that are here or will be here eventually. If you cannot find them or do not want to wait – email Nathan Grandjean about how to get them: Contact@yavine.fr (I DO NOT work for wine stores, never have and never will. I get no kickback or payment for this). I state this here only as information. It also seems that kosherwine.com will soon have the 2014 Chateau La Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classe as well.

We continued tasting these wines for more than a day, it was only after a long time that the great 2014 wines really opened up. Also, we tasted the Von Hovels throughout this time as well (I did not post the scores here again, as they are in their own post).

The rest of the wines at the tasting were either horrible, passable, or nice enough. My many thanks to JK, Nathan, and his family (for putting up with us). The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 LI BI Rose, Cotes du Rhone – Score: 88
The wine is a rose made of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. Lovely nose of grapefruit, floral notes, with green apple, gooseberry, with nectarines, and good mineral. The mouth is nice enough, the acid is medium in nature, and while it is well balanced it is unidimensional, with good lemon, peach, and nice acid that does rise after a bit. The finish is long and floral with good saline, mineral, slate, and good spice. Drink up!

2016 Le Mourre de L’isle, White – Score: 87
The wine is a blend of 40% Roussanne, 30 Viognier, and 30% Grenache Blanc. Lovely nose of peach, and honeysuckle, floral notes, with green apple, and spice. The mouth is slow to open, with peach notes, good acid and balance, with again little complexity but nice acid, with peach, grapefruit, and crazy floral notes. The finish is long with mineral and sweet spices, cinnamon, and cloves. Drink by 2018.
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Vignobles David Le Mourre de L’Isle Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages Reserve

On a warm winter day in January, I had the opportunity to sit down with the head winemaker and owner of Vignobles David, and Shai Ghermezian, executive vice president of Allied Importers, who imports the wine into the country. The winery’s 114 acres of vineyards are located on the southern side of the Rhone Valley, in front of the famous Pont du Gard, within the triangle-shaped area of Avignon, Nîmes and Uzès.

The name of the winery is given for the name of its owner, Fred David, who can been seen partially obscured behind his wine, in the picture to the right. However, it is also very apropos to the work that the David does full time, that being a vigneron for his Vignoble, or in English a wine maker manicuring his vineyard. A vigneron in its purest sense, means a person who not only makes wine, but one who also tends to his vineyards. There really are very few true vigneron left out there, simply because of the sheer effort and time required to do it. Of course, Fred has people who help him, but he runs an independent family owned winery whose vines are all tended to in an organic manner.

Most people know this winery by the name of the kosher wine it sells here in the US: Le Mourre de l’Isle. Actually, the name of the winery, as we said above, is Vignobles David. Please keep the real winery’s name in mind, so you can be on the lookout for the other kosher wines that Allied will be importing from them in the near future.

As larger conglomerates are buying up more and more wineries, wineries like Vignobles David are standing their ground and producing wonderful wines in an ecologically friendly manner to boot. The winery has been around since 1991 and has been producing kosher wines since 2005. The winery also produces a kosher Rose but that is sold exclusively in Europe. This year, David has added a reserve wine to both his kosher and non-kosher lineup that he is going to release here in the US sometime in February.

As we were sitting around Ghermezian’s table, the conversation moved in many different directions. I could not help but ask questions about the wine business from two people whose very life depends on it. As I listened to the conversation I was fascinated by the way that Mr. David reminds me of another true vigneron, who is also a very good friend, Benyamin Cantz of Four Gates Winery. They both create kosher wines with rich intensity; they both mind their vines and care deeply about their craft. Obviously, David’s operation is many times larger than Four Gates, and one is in the US and the other in France, but I could not help but take notice of the common threads in their lives and the wines that they produce from their vines.

Discussing terroir with a Frenchman is truly enjoyable, but doing it in French is even more fun. I dabble in the romantic language and it was a joy talking with David in his native tongue, even if I did mangle a few of the words. As the discussion moved to his wines, I asked why he does not sell his Rose here in the US? Mr. Ghermezian showed interest and yet, Mr. Davis explained that while the US market enjoys his wines, he is able to sell his entire stock in Europe, whether kosher or not. Actually, the majority of his wine is not kosher and it sells out in Europe, with his customers asking for more. Yet, he creates kosher wine because of his religious beliefs. The cost of the kosher wine is slightly higher than the non-kosher variation, simply because of the extra costs that the kosher wine production entails, and yet I could not help but sense his pride in its production as we were talking.

The complexity of creating a kosher blend comes down to a tradeoff between cost or quality. The reason comes down to the rate of ripening of different grape varietals, Grenache does not ripen at the same time as Syrah or Mourvedre. So if one wants a kosher blend, he must have kosher supervisors there for three pickings to maximize the blend’s potential, or pick once and hope for the best. With great pride and precision, Mr. David explained that he had kosher supervisors at his winery for some thirty or more days! From the first picking all the way to the last picking, then through the fermentation, and finally culminating with the wine’s internment into concrete or oak. Each step requires the supervision and it also requires his constant focus, which is not his only task or distraction, as he must still create his other non-kosher wines that are all coming ripe at the same time.

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Spaghetti alla Puttanesca and a nice bottle of Côtes du Rhône Le Mourre de l’Isle

This past shabbos saw us back on home soil, and we could not be happier.  Hey, nothing against Australia, but two to three weeks away is more than enough for me in one stretch.  So, with little time to prepare, we arrived home dead on Thursday, we went with a simple standby, our Puttanesca recipe, along with whole wheat spaghetti.

With Tisha B’Av coming up, we had to stay away from meat, as we do not eat meat on the week that Tisha B’Av falls.  So a non-meat dish was in order, and we had a hunkering for a warm cooked meal, so puttanesca it was.  We threw in some whole wheat spaghetti and fresh green salad and that was all.

To pair with this tangy and acidic dish, I went with a lovely Côtes du Rhône that was selling for a steal during the Passover sale at KosherWine.com.  Keeping it simple on this post, wine notes follow below:

2007 Vignobles David Côtes du Rhône Le Mourre de l’Isle – Score: B+ to B++
The nose on this purple colored wine starts off hot initially, after it settles down it shows black plum, cranberry, cloves, coffee, oak, and stone/mineral notes. After it has enough air, about 1 to two hours, the nose cleans up, and a bit of oak is noticeable, along with black cherry and more cloves. The mouth on this dense and interesting, yet not so complex wine, starts with layers of black cherry, black plum, and spice. This wine is a spicy with sleek race horse lines that have enough concentration to make you look up from your glass.  The dense flavors roll into a soft, acidic, and mineral mid palate. The finish is long with a trail of oak, nice tannins, black cherry, plum, pepper and coffee.  The wine is spicy and sultry and lingers long on the palate with coffee, spice, and black cherry.

Lasagna, Cotes Du’ Rhone, Segal Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon, and Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon

This past week we had a table full of friends and family that went late into the night.  It was a grand time for sure, and the table was graced by a few bottles of yet unreleased wines, along with some enjoyable wines that are readily available as well.  The evening started with my now signature olive soup, that I modified from Mollie Katzen original vegetarian cookbook, which is getting harder and harder to find.  The soup is so nice because of the Kalamata olives that are used in the recipe.  We tried to cook this soup once without Kalamata olives – and in the end, you could have just eaten the olives, it would have been a better use of them.  The soup loses all reasons to exist, without the Kalamata olives. The lima beans that are in there as well complete the flavor and texture profile of the soup.

We followed the Olive soup with a meat only version of Lasagna.  We have made the meat lasagna many times, and its only real fault is that it is not as gooey as cheese lasagna.  The cheese adds the glue that is needed to keep the whole package together.  In its place the meat only lasagna, has no real glue, but the texture is still nice and the flavors are really well accentuated.  The recipe comes from a cookbook I have, but its main idea is browned ground meat, sautéed onion, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and mostly herbs – with a few spices.  Place the andante lasagna noodles on a layer of sauce at the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  Then place meat sauce on top of the bottom layer, followed by another layer of lasagna noodles, and then another layer of meat sauce, and then the final layer of lasagna noodles, followed by a light layer of meat sauce, to keep the top moist.

The 2007 Le Mourre de L’Isle Côtes du Rhône excites me because of its A.O.C., more than its score.  There are not that many Côtes du Rhône kosher wines around, and it gives us a chance to taste this interesting wine.  It is made with 60% Black Grenache – 40% Mourvedre, which are not very common kosher wine varietals.

We paired the lasagna with bold red wines and I think they paired well.  The wines notes follow below:

Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is another nice Israeli Cabernet. It is packed with chocolate, raspberry, blackberry, and serious amount of oak. The nose is not hot and is enveloping with heavy oak and chocolate. The mouth of this full bodied wine is soft and almost mouth coating. This wine required a long time to open up, and the patient wine connoisseur will be rewarded. The soft mouth melds well with raspberry, blackberry, and cassis. The mid palate is balanced with bright acidity, large amounts of oak, integrated tannins, and chocolate. The finish is long with more chocolate, leather, and a final dollop of oak. Another nice Israeli Cabernet that shows like a California Cabernet.

Segal Cabernet Sauvignon Single Vineyard Kosher Kerem Dishon 2005 – Score: A-
The nose on this red garnet wine is screaming with oak, cassis, blackberry, raspberry, and tons of dark chocolate. This nose on this wine is really quite special, and in many ways its nicest feature. This full bodied wine coats your mouth with oak first and foremost, almost reminiscent of a California Cabernet. The mouth follows with blackberry and cassis. The mid palate is packed with acidity, more oak and softening tannins. The medium long finish is flush with oak, coffee, and chocolate. This is a fun wine and one well worth the cost.

Le Mourre de L’Isle Côtes du Rhône 2007 – Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine is filled with blackberry, cranberry, cloves, coffee, and initially hot. After it has enough air, about 1 to two hours, the nose cleans up, and a bit of oak is noticeable, along with black cherry and more cloves. The mouth on this dense and interesting, yet not so complex wine starts with layers of black cherry, followed by hints of blackberry and a sensation that can only be described as chicken cherry cola. The dense flavors roll into a soft and oaky mid palate. The finish is medium long with a trail of oak, pepper and coffee.

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