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Tasting of Royal Wine’s 2018 and some 2019 French wines in California

Well, it is official, 2020 continues to take, and though my annoyances are minor in comparison to the pain others are feeling, it still has impacted my routine, which I guess is the story of 2020. For the past three years, I have been tasting Royal’s latest wines with the man in France for Royal, Menahem Israelievitch. Sadly, this year, no matter how much I planned and tried, it is a no go. So, for the first time, in a long time, the tasting will be here in Cali and it will only be a small part of the 2018 and 2019 wines, such is life.

So, no there will not be a picture with all the wines, and some of the wines from last year are still not here right now! But, I will post here what I did taste so far, and my overall feeling of the 2018 and 2019 vintages.

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, and the 2017 vintage was not ripe at all, the 2018 vintage makes the 2015 ripeness look tame! Now that is a very broad-stroke statement that cannot be used uniformly, but for the most part, go with it!

I see no reason to repeat what Decanter did – so please read this and I will repeat a few highlights below.

For a start, the drought came later in 2018,’ says Marchal, pointing out that early July saw less rain in 2016. ‘But when it came in 2018, it was more abrupt, with the green growth stopping across the whole region at pretty much the same time’. He sees it closer to 2009, but with more density to the fruit. … and high alcohols!

Alcohols will be highest on cooler soils that needed a long time to ripen, so the Côtes, the Satellites, and the cooler parts of St-Emilion have alcohols at 14.5-15%abv and more. I heard of one Cabernet Franc coming in at 16.5%abv, but that is an exception. In earlier-ripening areas, such as Pessac-Léognan and Pomerol, alcohols are likely to be more balanced at 13.5% or 14%abv, as they will have reached full phenolic ripeness earlier.

‘Pessac-Léognan did the best perhaps because it’s an early ripening site,’ said Marie-Laurence Porte of Enosens, ‘so they were able to get grapes in before over-concentration. If you had to wait for phenolic ripeness, that is where things could get difficult’.

The final averages per grape, according to Fabien Faget of Enosens, are Sauvignon Blanc 13.5%abv, Sémillon 12.5%abv, Merlot 14.5%abv, and Cabernet Sauvignon 14%abv’.

The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels, a fact I wonder about more and more. Look, if you are going to force Mevushal wine down our throats, why not import BOTH? If you look at the numbers for wines like we will taste in the post, the majority of the buyers are not restaurants or caterers. Sorry! No matter how much Royal Wines wants to fool itself into thinking. Throw in COVID and FORGET about this INSANITY, please! I beg of you!

There is no denying that it affects the wine, it does. I have tasted the Chateau Le Crock side by side, the Mevushal, and non-Mevushal and while I feel that Royal does a good job with the boiling, it is still affected. If you want to have Mevushal wines in the USA, then bring them BOTH in! Royal does this for Capcanes Peraj Petita and the undrinkable Edom and others in Israel. So what Royal is saying is – that could not sell the Chateau Le Crock numbers that they import into the USA without boiling it? Why else would they feel forced to boil it and import it if not otherwise? To me, it makes me sad, and in a way, it disrespects what Royal is trying to do to its French wine portfolio, IMHO. They should, at minimum, import both! Allow for the caterers and restaurants (like anyone needs that nowadays – HUH???) to have the Mevushal version and sell the non-mevushal version to us, as you do with Edom and Petita. There I have stated my peace, I am 100% sure I will be ignored – but I have tried!

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2018/2019 vintage will be, the 2018 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2018 Chateau Greysac, 2018 Chateau Chateau de Parsac, 2018 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, 2018 Chateau Le Crock, 2019 Chateau Les Riganes, Red, 2018 Chateau Genlaire, along with the whites wines, the 2019 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay, the 2019 Les Marronniers, Chablis,  and the 2019 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 of. 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 – yes! 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 affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.

The “other” wines not here yet or I have not had

There is the just-released 2018 Château Cantenac Brown Margaux (will post that when I get it), along with these yet unreleased wines. The 2019 Chateau Gazin Blanc (2018 was/is INCREDIBLE), 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, 2018 Château Meyney Saint Estèphe, 2018 Chateau Giscours, 2018 Chateau Lascombes, 2018 Chatyeau Tertre, and 2018 Chateau Royaumont.

I understand this is a sub-optimal situation and blog post. It does not cover Royal’s 2018/2019 European wine portfolio. Still, it covers what has been released (or very close to it), here in the USA, and hopefully, it will help you. One day soon, I hope and pray, things will return to some semblance of normalcy, and we will all travel around again. Until then, this is the best I can do. Stay safe!

Final comments, disclaimer, and warnings

First, there are a TON of QPR winners but there are also a LOT of good wines that I will be buying. Please NOTE vintages. The 20016 Haut Condissas is a disaster while the 2017 vintage is fantastic! So, please be careful!

These wines are widely available in the USA, so support your local wine stores folks – they need your help! If you live in a wine-drinking desert, like California, support the online/shipping folks on the side of this blog. They are folks I buy from (as always – I NEVER get a bonus/kickback for your purchases – NOT MY STYLE)!

Sadly, there was no plane trip, no hotels, no restaurants, nothing. So, no trip to talk about – just the wines and my lovely home! Stay safe all and here are the wines I have had so far. I have also posted many scores of 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 wines which are still for sale here in the USA. My many thanks to Royal Wine for their help in procuring some of these wines. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

Read the rest of this entry

Les Vins IDS continues to truly impress, with the new 2017 Chateau Lafon Rochet and more

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.

Complete Les Vins IDS wine lineup 2

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.

Complete Les Vins IDS wine lineup - back labels

The Tasting

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

Tasting of Royal’s 2016 French wines in France

All 16 of the 2016 and 2017 Royal Wines of Bordeuax - sideways view

As I stated recently in my original post about my most recent trip to Israel, the reds of Israel are really not impressive, but thankfully I ended my trip by going to France to meet with Menahem Israelievitch and taste through all of Royal’s new 2016 and 2017 wines from France in Paris.

2016 Royal Europe French wines

Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to taste many of these wines from the barrel at each of the wineries in Bordeaux. Now, the 2015 wines were a bit more akin to the barrel notes when I tasted through the 2015 wines last year in Paris, but the 2015 wines were already in barrel for a year. However, since the trip was in 2016, the 2016 wines were barely finished fermenting and most had yet to even go through malo, but man even then it was easy to tell that the 2016 vintage was going to be something very special.

The 2014 vintage to me, was crazy fun because it is less ripe than the 2015 or 2016 vintages. They are also FAR cheaper. Then you had the 2015 wines which are 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 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 of the 2016 vintage will be the Chateau Malartic wine, get ready to see that at 170 or more a bottle! That will be close to double the 2014 vintage.

In a previous post about the most recent French wines 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.

Also, the 2015 vintage may have been ripe to many, but the 2016 right bank wines are even riper. That appears in the right bank because of the Merlot that was super ripe in 2016, but other wines with lots of Merlot also show that way, even on the left bank.

The interesting change this year for these wines is that more of them will be coming to the USA in Mevushal format. Will that 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 2016 vintage will be, the 2016 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon, 2016 Chateau Greysac, 2016 Chateau 2016 Chateau de Parsac, 2016 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, along with the two whites wines, the 2017 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay and the 2017 Les Marronniers, Chablis.

All 16 of the 2016 and 2017 Royal Wines of Bordeuax

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. The only wine listed below that will be mevushal in the USA and that is NOT mevushal in France is the 2016 Chateau Le Crock. I will post my notes on the mevushal version when it is released here in the USA, they are currently selling the 2015 Chateau Le Crock, so that needs to sell out before the 2016 vintage is released.

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. 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 29 wines. The only wine missing wines were the 2016 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild and the 2016 Chateau Greysac.

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 making the time to taste the wines with me.

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

2017 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 91
Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry apricot, with honeysuckle, lemongrass, with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, with a bit of sweet fruit of guava and rich acid that comes at you in layers. The finish is long and green, with gooseberry, passion fruit, and lovely round and tart with freshness and orange pith, and incredible acidity lingering long. Drink until 2021.

Interesting note on this wine, there is a thermosensitive logo on the label that shows ONLY when the wine is at the correct temperature, on the bottom right-hand corner of the front white label. This is a lovely wine and one that is worth the effort to enjoy at the correct temp. Cool!

2017 Chateau Lacaussade Saint Martin, Vignes Vignes – Score: 90
The wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is very slow to open, it may need a quick decanting, for an hour or so. The nose is slightly tropical in nature with lovely with melon, guava, and hints of passion fruit to start, over time it recedes to show lemongrass, straw, mineral, grapefruit, citrus, and honeysuckle notes. Just like the nose the mouth also starts off with crazy tropical notes that also recede with time, to show a very different wine. After some time, the mouth on this wine is not complex, but very nice, with rich acidity, showing a good balance of fruit, green apple, heather, tart pear, and mineral. The finish is long, super long, with southern tea, and rich acidity, and lovely pith. Drink until 2021. Read the rest of this entry

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