My top 30 kosher wines of 2019 including wine of the year, Winery 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.
We are returning with the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year” while adding in a new category called “Winery of the Year”, and another new category, the best White 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. 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, especially with its 2016 vintage.
This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my statement. 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.
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, it was, by far, the worst kosher Rose vintage. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was really more a task of removing then adding. I may have stated the obvious in my last post, about the state of kosher wine in general, and not all of it was very good. Still, as I stated, we are blessed with more QPR wines and more top wines, while the core pool of wines, which are horribly poor, continue to grow larger and larger.
The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2017 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. Thankfully, we had Domaine Netofa and Yaccov Oryah’s Orange and white Wines to come to the rescue. Throw in Vitkin’s good work, and more great work by Royal Europe, including the new Gazin Blanc, and others, and you have quite a crop of fun white wines!
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 2019 kosher wines of the year – we have a four-way TIE all from Yarden!
Yes! You have read it correctly, the wines of the year come from Golan Heights Winery (AKA Yarden Winery), the 4th largest date juice producer in the entire world! The top date juice honor belongs to Barkan Winery, but I digress.
So, why is Yarden here, because albeit’s deep desire to throw away years of work creating very nice wines, at a reasonable price, with its wines from the early 2000s and before, it still makes the best kosher sparkling wines, and it is time that it receives its due.
As I stated in my year in review, the kosher wine public has finally awoken to the joy of sparkling wine! Last week I told a friend I popped a sparkler for Shabbat lunch and he replied in a sarcastic tone, “Oh only a sparkler”, like that was a crazy thing to do. I replied that the Gamla (AKA Gilgal) Brut costs less than most white wines do! Why not pop one with lunch on Shabbat??? Others tell me, yes there is more a public appreciation for Sparkling wines, but it is a different wine category. I do not agree! Sure, sparkling wine has bubbles, so yeah, it is different. However, that is EXACTLY what is wrong here, Sparkling wine is just white or rose wine with bubbles. Who cares? When it is well made, it is a wine like any other wine.
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
The night of the KFWE London tasting, right after I left the tasting, I took the tube to the airport. I slept there overnight and at 7 AM I took a plane to Lyon France to start my journey to meet up with the Taieb wines and to taste through their current offerings.
If you remember the story, I had gone from California to Paris, on to London, for the Blue smoke dinner and then the KFWE London tasting. It was after the tasting that I took the train to the airport. I had heard many things about the Taieb wines and it was time to actually taste through the wines myself.
I had to take a plane to Lyon, two trains, and then a car ride to get there, but I think it was worth it, as I had the chance to taste through wines that are rarely seen or tasted here in the USA. It was the same for the way back, so yeah I could have starred in two movies!
Let me get one thing aside right now. Not all the wines are easy to find here in the USA, other than the Burgundy wines, because of the horrible wine distribution of Victor Wines and Touton wines, here in the USA. As you will see Taieb makes 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.
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, and while Domaine Lescure was epic in 2014 and 2015, the 2016 vintage had some issues. The bottle I had at home showed aspects of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), while the bottle I had at the winery had no issues. Others have said they had off bottles as well, though when the wine is good it is great, so I am torn.
The line of kosher wines 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.
Overall, I was very impressed with the lineup of wines and I really dream of being able to have these wines more accessible here in the USA. For now, Liquid Kosher has the wonderful 2015 Domaine Lescure and the very nice 2015 Domaine d’Ardhuy Aloxe Corton.
In 2017 there was a new wine line from Burgundy, the Jean-Pierre Marchand wines. With the loss of Domaine d’Ardhuy from the kosher ranks, following the 2015 vintage, the Taieb’s went out and made the Jean-Philippe Marchand wines. The baseline Bourgogne is really solid for the price, while the upper line wines are nice as well, but as with all things Burgundy they come at a price. Truly Burgundy’s Achilles heel, especially in kosher, is the price. Also, the upper-level wines from Volnay, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Nuits-Saint-Georges are not available here in the USA. Read the rest of this entry
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.
Read the rest of this entry
If you have never heard of Shmita – I doubt you live in Israel. Last year, like many past Shmita years, was very complex for haredi Jews in Israel, as they were not allowed to consume fruits from Israel. Every 7 years, the land needs to lie fallow, and in doing so farmers are without income for the year. The Torah describes that when the Jews are following the laws and abiding by his commands, God will give double or more in the 6th year for the 7th year and the 8th – till food is once again harvested.
Nowadays, that promise is not working, so what happens to the farmers that still want to leave their land fallow? Well, the Israeli government supported some, while other organizations from around the world collected funds to support these courageous farmers. Once such organization; Keren Hashviis, collected some 22+ million dollars. According to this article from vosizneias, Keren Hashviis said that in total 33,000 hectares of land, or 81,500 acres, were left fallow this shmita year, and some 3,500 farmers ceased their work. However, according to the ministries of Agriculture and Religious Services, approximately 200 farms totally ceased agricultural work during the shmita year, or made use of another alternative, while 4,656 farms signed up to the heter mechira system. The article goes on to explain the discrepancy – but what is very clear to me is that this past year was one of the more concerted efforts by Israel and its religious Haredi Jews to move Israel towards truly leaving its lands fallow.
In terms of kosher wineries, there were not many that followed the Shmita concept to its fullest. Interestingly, Vitkin Winery chose 2015 to turn kosher – now that is not an easy plan to work out, though to Vitkin, like many wineries in Israel nothing changed for them by going kosher, and whomever was buying their wines before would not know or care that they were now kosher! Read the rest of this entry