Blog Archives

My top 25 kosher wines of 2021, including the Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, the Best Wine of the Year, and the Best Mevushal wines 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 “Winery of the Year”, and “Best White wine of the year”, along with a new one – “Best Mevushal 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.

The Mevushal wine of the year is something I personally dread. I understand the need for a wine that can be enjoyed at restaurants and events, but when we start seeing Château Gazin Rocquencourt and Chevalier de Lascombes go Mevushal – we know we have a problem. As I have stated in the past, if this is what needs to happen, then please sell both options as many do with Peraj Petita/Capcanes, Psagot wines, and many others. Still, it is a wine and as such, it needs a best-of-the-year moniker, so this will be the first year where we do it.

This past year, I tasted more wines than I have ever, in the past. Now to be clear here, I did not taste many Israeli wines as they have proven to me over and over again, even with the much-ballyhooed 2018 vintage that they are not worth me spending my money on. So, no I have not tasted as many Israeli wines as I have in the past, but overall, this is the largest number, for me. I spent a fair amount of time tasting all the French and European wines I could get my hands on and I feel that is where I added the most value, IMHO. For those that like the Israeli wine style – other writers/bloggers can point you in some direction.
IMHO, this past year brought the best wines I have seen in a long time.

IMHO, this past year brought the best wines I have seen in a long time. No, I do not just mean, the lovely 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet, but overall, the scores garnered this year are on keel with my top wines of 2017, which included the best wines from 2014 and 2015 vintages. Nothing has come close since that list, until this past year – so that really excites me as there are still a few wines from the 2019 vintage that I have yet to taste.

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. The 2019 vintage may have as many once we taste them all, but for now, the 2014 vintage across all wine producers has created a far more complete and consistent product than any of the years, up until 2019.

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 than adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – similar to 2017. To highlight the last point, I scored 109 wines with a 92 or higher, and 66 of those were given the QPR score of WINNER (or WINNER in FRANCE).

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2019 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 2019 Chateau Malartic and the 2019 Château Gazin Rocquencourt (NON-Mevushal), and the new 2020 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. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

The 2021 kosher wine of the year – is new!

This is a new wine for the kosher wine market and it sits a bit above where I would like it, price-wise, but it is the best wine for a price that is still comfortable for the value. It is one of the rare wines that score a GREAT QPR – when priced above 100 dollars. Still, it fits right there to make it GREAT. There were so many to choose from this year – I am so happy to restate, but in the end, this award goes to a reasonably priced wine that garnered the highest score. The 2014 and 2015 Domain Roses Camille was an option, but the price pushed out of the competition. There was the 2017 Elvi Clos Mesorah, at a far better price than the LaGrange, but again, the LaGrange fit right in that space, barely above the Clos (quality-wise), and within the range of QPR. There was the 2018 Malartic and the 2017 Leoville, but they, like the DRC, were priced out. Finally, there was the 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Vallerots, but that wine is almost impossible to find, sadly!

If there was a single QPR WINNER that blew me away – it would be the 2012 Château Cru Ducasse – in France, I can see no reason not to buy as much of this as humanly possible! Either way – the new Chateau LaGrange is a wonderful wine and one that is worthy of the 2021 wine of the year!

2019 Chateau LaGrange Grand Cru Classe En 1855, Saint-Julien – Score: 94+ (QPR: GREAT)
WOW, what wine for a 12.5% ABV wine, come on, the next time someone says I need to wait for the phenolics to talk with me, the answer is this wine! This wine is a blend of 80% cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, & 2% Petit Verdot.
The nose on this wine is lovely and perfumed with rich minerality, dense loam, graphite, smoke, roasted animal, clay, black and red fruit, all wrapped in more dirt, tar, and licorice, wow!
The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is beautiful, the acid is perfect, balanced and tart, elegant and layered, with lovely raspberry, plum, dark currants, hints of blue fruit, with ripe cassis, scraping mineral, dirt, loam, roasted herbs, menthol, with sweet vanilla, and lovely licorice.
The finish is long, with draping tannin, scraping mineral, and lovely tar, loam, nice leather, and rich garrigue, really lovely! Drink from 2031 until 2042. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)

Read the rest of this entry

Paris tasting of Royal’s 2019 and other French wines – November 2021

So, in June I made my way to Paris and I posted the Royal wines I tasted, they were mostly white, rose, and a few red wines as well. For the past many years I have been tasting the new releases from Royal wines with Menahem Israelievitch. Sadly, last year, because of COVID I tasted the 2018 vintage in my house. Thankfully, Paris was open in November, and I returned to taste more wines.

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.

While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, the 2017 vintage was not ripe at all, with the 2018 vintage making the 2015 ripeness look tame! Well, I am happy to say that the 2019 vintage is far more in control, less heat is obvious, though it showed up in a few wines below. Now that is a very broad-stroke statement that cannot be used uniformly, for the most part, go with it! Thankfully, the 2019 vintage will be priced slightly lower than 2018, overall, more on that below.

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 just ages the wine rather than ruining it.

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2018/2019/2020 vintages will be the

  • 2020 Les Marrionniers Chablis, Chablis
  • 2020 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux
  • 2020 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur
  • 2018 Des Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Les Lauriers, Montagne Saint-Emilion
  • 2019 Des Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Les Lauriers, Montagne Saint-Emilion
  • 2018 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc
  • 2019 Chateau Greysac, Medoc
  • 2019 Chevalier de Lascombes, Margaux – YES this is new for 2019 OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
  • 2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux
  • 2018/2019 Chateau de Parsac
  • 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc, Grand Vin – YES this is new for 2019 OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
  • 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Red, Grand Vin – YES this is new for 2019 OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
  • 2018/2020 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc
  • 2017/2019 Chateau Mayne Guyon

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! Same with the Chateau Le Crock, over the past few years. So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below! The answer is yes! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years. To me personally, it is very clear, if Royal had their way they would make the Pontet Canet Mevushal! Nothing to Royal is sacred and this will not stop with the list above, it will grow, proof is Chevalier and Gazin!

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 2019 Pricing and access

When the 2019 wines were released “En primeur” the date was late May 2020. The world, at that time, knew nothing about COVID other than it was killing thousands and questions were all we had. Still, wineries in Bordeaux decided to plow on and the first of the virtual tastings took place on May 28th, 2020 – from Chateau Pontet Canet! This was the non-kosher tasting but at that moment when wines were shipped the world over, wineries decided to lower prices! Remember, we had been raising prices year over year, 2014 to 2015, to 2016, to 2018, it was time to reset. The pandemic allowed for that. Thankfully, and sadly, the world has slowly come back from the brink of death, and now, the 2020 vintage, which has the “En primeur“, in Bordeaux, June 2021, raised prices – so yeah, the 2020 Chateau Pontet Canet is more expensive than the 2019 vintage.

On top of that, the 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet is going to be impossible to buy. I have asked why certain wines in the past were not made more often or the such? Like why do we have Leoville every 2 or more years? Why can it not be more like Giscours? The answer I have received, from many at Royal is that folks still fear what happened during the last recession of 2007/2008. They had made too much of Leoville and Pontet Canet, in a short period, and well, sadly it sat. I get it, who wants to stare at walls of wine they cannot sell?
My issue with that is – well that was more than 15 years ago guys! Maybe a better way to say it is to channel Dorthy – Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Do we believe that another 100 cases would not sell?? The Malartic white is almost sold out! Malartic white! A wine no one thought they could sell 10 years ago. The world of the kosher wine consumer has moved in leaps and bounds – to continue to think like it is still 2008 is to belittle us and deny many what they want – more Pontet Canet! I will get off my soapbox, but it is truly time to stop with the kneejerk mindset. Like no 2019 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, why? Look at the famous 2014 Chateau Montviel story! It sold out in a week. Why? Because there was so little made. Again, the kosher consumer has moved past the days of old – I think it is time for Royal to do the same.

I understand that when Pontet Canet started up, again, with a new run of kosher wine, they created a separate sub-winery for the production. Further, they replicated the process, the varietal blend, and overall physical impact. The physical impact does define the total potential output, but it is time to start to grow the market. The market can and should support large output, especially in the trophy wine space, you can always control the output by skipping a vintage, in the end, Giscours and Leoville have proven it is doable, and I hope that Royal will continue to feel comfortable and grow Pontet and Leoville as we progress down the road.

Still, as always, we are indebted to the work of Menahem Israelievitch and Royal Wines for producing so many wonderful wines, even if they are in low supply. The 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet is a very different wine than the 2003 or the 2004 Chateau Pontet Canet. First of all, the system used to make those wines, back then, have changed drastically in the past 10 years, at the Chateau. Everything is now over the top, in regards to everything there. All production is done by hand and that adds to the cost. To me, the wine is also very different, stylistically, gone is the powerhouse, what we have now is a refined masterpiece. It may shock some people, and that is good, but to me, it is a classically styled and built wine for the future, and the best wines I have tasted this year, so far anyway.

Tasting in Paris

I landed in Paris, the day before this tasting and I met up with Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. It was a true joy to hang out with Mr. Davidowitz for a few days. It was so nice of him to fly from Israel to join me in the tastings. We also tasted over 70 wines – outside of the planned tastings. We thankfully had a great hotel room and it gave us loads of space to hang out and taste through those wines.

We had the chance to taste both the Mevushal and the non-Mevushal versions of two wines, side-by-side. Those were the 2019 Chevalier de Lascombes and the 2019 Chateau Le Crock. I missed the Chevalier de Lascombes but I got the Chateau La Crock. In my defense, both of the Chevalier de Lascombes are ripe, and differentiating the ripe from the riper was not obvious, but hey, I missed it!

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 and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Domaine Ternynck Bourgogne, Les Truffieres, Burgundy (M) – Score: 87 (QPR: BAD)
The nose on this wine is ripe apple, pear, melon, a bit of citrus, and spice. The mouth on this wine is nice but lacks the acidity to make it come together well, with melon, pear, mineral, and spice. The finish is a bit short with hints of nectarine, orange, mango, and sweet mint. Drink now. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)

Read the rest of this entry

Final Tasting from my trip to Paris – June 2021

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in June, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I must start by thanking Ari Cohen, yet again, because all the wines tasted here, other than the wines from Elvi, were managed by Ari. The total number of boxes in my hotel room, still makes me laugh!

Moises Cohen from Elvi Wines sent me the Elvi wines tasted below while the rest of the wines either I or Ari bought.

As I stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. Even vaccinated, I was worried, and am still worried, as such I kept to myself, where possible. Almost all the wines below were tasted alone in my room other than the last few wines which were tasted at IDS’ offices.

Magrez wines continue to be a horrible mess

Besides the 2017 Chateau Fombrauge, Blanc, which was an oxidized disaster, I also tasted five more Magrez wines and they all continue to be a shadow of what the 2014 vintage was for this winery. Truly unfortunate for all of us kosher wine drinkers.

Memorias del Rambam

These were also not very impressive. I had them over a few days and they never turned the corner. They stayed very much a ripe ball of oak and fruit, classic parker style. The Yunikko was interesting, without the oak overpowering the wine, it has potential, but it also never came together.

Elvi Wines

I got the chance to enjoy the 2016 Elvi Wines Herenza Reserva and it is quite a joy. It should be coming to the USA soon, definitely a wine worth stocking up on!

Languedoc & Savoie Wines

Overall not a bad batch of wines though there is a clear WINNER in the 2019 Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc. WOW!! if that was available in the USA, for that price, I would drink it every week!! Much like the Maison Sarela White, I enjoyed in Paris as well. The 2020 Jean Perrier & Fils Pure, Savoie was nice, much better than the Blanc which was not useful!

Overall, IMHO, the 2019 Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc is such a WINNER it is a shame it is not here in the USA. Again, I understand import prices, extra layers of costs, so I doubt it makes sense here in the USA. But, for all of those in Paris/Europe – BUY IT!

Various Bordeaux Wines

This group was a total loser, other than the Cru Ducasse family of wines and the two Taieb wines. The two Taieb wines were nice and documented here. The rest were a total mess.

The 2012 Château Cru Ducasse, Haut Médoc and the 2012 Chateau Moutinot, Saint-Estephe are two more WINENRS and they were incredible! The price and the quality – WOW! The 2012 Château Cru Ducasse was imported into the USA a long time ago and then it disappeared. It is available in Paris/Europe – BUY IT!! WOW!!

Wines enjoyed at IDS’ Office

Ari gathered all the wines we tasted that day and Ben Uzman from Les Vins IDS shared a bottle of the 2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Blanc, Cotes de Provence. That is a lovely wine, a bit expensive, but a lovely wine indeed!

Besides the lovely Vermentino, we had the complete set of kosher Chateau Trianon that is for sale, at this time. The early 2017 vintage – the petite was not very good. However, the 2018 and 2019 vintages were lovely!

Thoughts on this tasting

Overall, these wines were unimpressive, but wow did we find some real sleepers! The 2019 Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers is a no-brainer for those in France/Europe. The Elvi is coming here soon, and the Trianon while lovely, is not yet been imported, and when it does, I doubt the price will stay near where it is today to stay a WINNER.

Overall, many great WINNER wines will stay in Europe or may come here to the USA but will not be WINNERs here. Still, again, for those in Europe/UK – enjoy! Thanks again to Ari and IDS for their help!

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

2016 Chateau Tour Blanche, Medoc – Score: 80 (QPR: BAD)
The nose on this wine is flat as is the mouth, it is not a fruit bomb, it is just boring. The nose on this wine shows black and red fruit, a bit of dirt, heat, and loam. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is flat, it has no acid, it is lifeless, and not interesting. Next! Drink now. (tasted June 2021)

2016 Chateau La Tour Carnet, Grand Cru Classe en 1855, Haut-Medoc – Score: 89.5 (QPR: POOR)
This wine is far less fruity than the 2015 vintage, showing notes of deep loam, fresh dirt, sweet oak, sweet dill, milk chocolate, nice green notes, foliage, smoke, anise, tar, and ripe fruit, interesting. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, but controlled, with proper acidity, elegance, layers of big bold blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, with lovely mouth-draping tannin, dark chocolate, rich saline, lovely graphite, all wrapped in a rich plush mouthfeel, dense yet balanced with sweet oak, sweet tobacco, and nice mineral. The finish is long, sweet, balanced, with green notes, bell pepper, foliage, leather, rich earth, and lovely clean fruit on the long finish. Drink from 2024 until 2030. (tasted June 2021)

2016 Chateau Fombrauge, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: 86 (QPR: BAD)
This wine, much like the Tour Blanche, is empty, it is not unbalanced or a fruit bomb, rather it is none of the above and free of anything that will grab my attention. The nose on this wine is red and black, with green notes, sweet oak, and anise. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is empty, free of acidity, life, or fruit, it has a bit but all I get is oak, sweet fruit, and smoke. The finish is long, with mouth-draping tannin, sweet fruit, leather, and more sweet oak on the long finish. Drink by 2027 (tasted June 2021)

2017 Chateau La Tour Carnet Grand Cru Classe en 1855, Haut-Medoc – Score: 85 (QPR: POOR)
WOW, I am confused the 2015 vintage was overripe, the 2016 vintage was balanced, now the 2017 vintage is lifeless with hints of ripe fruit in the far background, like what??? The nose on this wine is empty, hints of ripe black fruit, overripe blue fruit, sweet oak, sweet dill, and not much else. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is ripe, with mouth-draping tannin, and not much else, blackberry, raspberry, all trying to cover up the glaring hole in the middle, with not enough acid to get this all around. The finish is a bit short, with more milk chocolate, smoke, green notes, and leather. Drink until 2027. (tasted June 2021)

2017 Chateau Magrez la Peyre, Saint-Estephe – Score: 83 (QPR: BAD)
Another Magrez and another wine without any life, I guess 2017 Magrez = empty lifeless wines. The nose on this wine is ripe, unbalanced, and empty, again, with notes of milk chocolate, sweet oak, ripe black fruit, a bit of earth, and that is it. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is empty, it has nice mouth-draping tannin, it has no holes, but it has no acid, and it lacks life, the fruit is nowhere, with a bit of blackberry, raspberry, and green notes. The finish is long, green, red, and ripe, with milk chocolate, leather, sweet spices, more oak, and good mineral. Drink until 2027. (tasted June 2021)

Read the rest of this entry
%d bloggers like this: