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My top 25 kosher wines of 2020 including Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, and the 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 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 categories I added last year, “Winery of the Year”, “Best White 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.

This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my state on kosher wine overall. 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. 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.

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 then adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – just not like a few years ago when that bounty included many 95 and 95+ scoring wines.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2018 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 2017 and 2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, both Grand Cru and Premier Cru, and the new 2019 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.

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 2020 kosher wine of the year – is a return to its greatness – the 2018 Elvi Wines EL26

Elvi EL26 is back! Back to the glory days and I have stocked up and sadly, it will sell out quickly, if it is not already sold out! Get a move on, there was not a huge production of this beauty!

So, why did EL26 win? Simple, it is a great wine, and then throw in its WINNER price, and this wine punches at two levels, at the same time! You can read more about this fantastic wine here, in my post about it. Enjoy!

2018 Elvi Wines EL26, Elite, Priorat – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 80% Garnacha (Grenache) and 20% Carignan. This wine is pure heaven, dirt, smoke, roasted animal, saline, mineral, juicy tart red, and blue fruit, with incredible precision and fruit focus – Bravo!
The nose on this wine is pure fun, showing tart red fruit, incredible fresh loam, and dirt, hints of mushroom, licorice, roasted animal, a whiff of oak, sage, rosemary, with dirt, and green notes. This wine is currently far more Bordeaux in style than that of a Spanish Priorat! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is not overly extracted, but it is well extracted, with good mouth and fruit texture, with incredible acid, good fruit focus, showing dark cherry, plum, ripe and tart raspberry, strawberry, oak, vanilla, and garrigue, with green notes, and lovely mouth-draping tannin. The finish is long, green, yet ripe, with great control and precision, with lovely graphite, more roasted meat, scraping minerality, saline, rich smoking tobacco, and smoke, lots of char and smoke. Bravo! With time the wine opens more and shows its riper side, still very controlled, but the fun red and blue fruit become a bit fuller and richer in the mouth – quite an impressive wine! Drink from 2026 until 2036. (tasted December 2020)

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Kosher Mid-Range aging red wines may well be the sweet spot for the kosher wine market – lots of WINNERS.

We are working our way through the QPR 2.1 and 2.0 wine categories and so far, outside of simple white wines, there has not been a lot of love or WINNERS to talk about. However, things start to change with the 2nd red wine category.

These wines are drinkable now but will improve a bit with time. They are not the undrinkable wine category, which will be next, but rather these wines are good now and may garner some of those tertiary notes we all love so much, with a bit of time in the bottle. These kinds of wines are normally more expensive, but this is where the QPR (Quality to Price ratio) sweet spot exists, IMHO.

As explained in my last post, the wine categorization is impacted by what I think the wine will last. Meaning that a poor wine will not be more enjoyable in 5 years if it is a painful date juice now. Nor will the wine be more ageable depending on the price of the wine. The length of time wine can live in the bottle is not scientific in any manner, it is subjective, much like the wine’s score, still, it is based upon this that the wines are judged for their QPR.

Mid-range aging Reds (4 to 11 years) – cellar saviors

As I have stated enough times now, the fact that a wine can “live” for 10 or so years, tells you that the wine is good to start with, or at least professionally made. Still, the next level up, High-end Red wines (11 and more years), come at a much higher price range. Yes, there are sweet spot wines there as well, but there are more here in the mid-range options. Also, these are the wines that will save your cellar. Look, I like wines like the 2019 Chateau Les Riganes, or the 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon just fine! But when you want something with a bit more polish or elegance and you do not want to raid your high-end wines early, THIS IS the category to go to!

If you want that next level is quality but not the next level in price, per se, this is the category to hit. Here you will find wines like the 2017 Chateau Greysac, Medoc, the 2015 Louis Blanc Crozes-Hermitage, and the 2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, which all scored 92 or higher and are all priced at 30 dollars or lower. While I would say these wines will improve with more time, they can at least be enjoyed now, without robbing the cradle of wine like 2015, 2017, or 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre.

On a Facebook post, I and many others were asked over and over about this wine or that wine, wines that were still far too young to be appreciated now. My response was the same over and over, stop opening bottles so early! I opened a bottle of 2007 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, 2 weeks ago, it was an absolute joy but also, a wine that was so young it was truly a crime! STOP opening wines early folks. Let the wines come to you! This wine category is where you will find the richer, more complex options, for a higher price than the Simple reds, but still at a lower price point overall than the higher-end reds. There are 20+ WINNERS here, between USA and France, BUY them and SAVE YOUR CELLAR!!!

Shirah Wines Post

If one takes even a cursory look at this post and the wine notes below, the predominant winery/producer you will find is Shirah Wines. I got all the current wines in May of this year. It took me a bit of time to finally post them. As I stated last year, in my year in review, California had indeed turned its direction towards riper fruit and wines. Shirah contacted me and I bought the current wines to make 100% sure that my notes were in line with my comments, you can make your mind up from the notes.

I will stress THREE points here AGAIN, as I have done over a long time already:

  1. I crave the 2010 (AKA NV) /2012/2013/2014 Bro.Deux and the 2013 Syrah, and I FONDLY remember the old days of the One-Two Punch. Those were and still are VERY different wines than what is being sold now. I have had all of them recently and still have some bottles. They are wonderful, but they are not what the 2016 or 2017 Bro.Deux is like today.
  2. I strongly believe in Shirah Wines, I think the wines they produce are professionally made and are perfect for the bigger/flashier/riper palate that is the cornerstone of today’s kosher wine-buying public. They are just not the wines I want.
  3. Finally, there has been a clear and very big shift in the palate of the wines being made in California, today. Even Four Gates wines are getting riper. The issue here is all about balance. If I feel fruit is overripe and sticking out, to a point where I do not enjoy the wine, but rather think about the ripe fruit, I will move on. I understand this is a subjective way of seeing wine. I get that, and that is what makes wine so fascinating. Like all of art, it is not what is true or false as much as it is what one likes or dislikes.

WINNERS and other demarcations

As stated above, some wines will be winners in France/Europe and others will be WINNERS in the USA. I do not know the pricing in Israel or the wines or really anything about Israel for the last year+. Maybe Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered can make a post or two on this subject! HINT HINT!

Also, there are strange prices, distributions, and edge cases throughout Europe, and as such what is a good price in Paris may not be in London. Worse is wine in Belgium may be a better price than in Paris or London. The idea of “Europe” being a single country for commerce is a MASSIVE sham in the kosher wine market, in Europe anyway. In the USA it is equally messy, in regards to pricing throughout the states, L.A.’s wine prices are either non-existent (because there is no wine) or it is sky-high. I have seen better prices for California wines in NYC than in California! Like what now??? So, yeah, pricing is not as crisp, all the time, as I make it out to be here with my QPR posts, but I do the very best I can.

So, WINNER means USA (sorry this is a USA dominant blog), WINNER (F) means a WINNER in France. I will denote as well, in the wine post if the wine is only available in France or Europe, which is the same for me here, as London is the main outlier and it is not part of Europe anymore – sorry London! Enjoy the train!!! On a total aside, I did love taking the train from London to Paris, a few days AFTER they left the union! Moving on now.

So, without too much more delay – let’s get to it! Here is the list of cellar saviors and mid-level red wines. There are many WINNERS for buyers here in the USA and those in France! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a fantastic wine, and with my new QPR scoring it is still is not as expensive as the median and its score is also above the median, so it is a GREAT QPR. This is a no brainer GREAT QPR wine and will sell out quickly BUY NOW!
This wine is incredible, it is better than the 2016 vintage and much better than 2017. It is even a bit better than the massively epic 2015 vintage. Bravo Daniella and Maria!!!
The nose on this wine is ripe, but the balance on it is incredible, the fruitiness exists but it hides behind a redolent garden of fresh mushroom, grass, dirt, loam, and lovely earth, with hints of barnyard, forest floor, and dark fruit, with balsamic vinegar, and roasted herbs galore. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is incredible, layered, rich, extracted, and so balanced, with incredible acidity, intense saline, dark sour cherry, coffee, all balanced and plush, with rich blackberry, cherry, strawberry, salami, with lovely mouth draping tannin, with minerality, graphite galore, and a lovely tannin structure. The finish is long, green, and ripe but perfectly balanced, with lovely acidity, roasted coffee, graphite, scarping mineral, loads of smoke, and sweet tobacco on the long finish. Bravo!! Drink until 2027 maybe longer.

2017 Tassi Aqua Bona Toscana Rosso, Bettina Cuvee – Score: 92 (QPR: BAD)
This wine is meant to be bottled under the D.O.C.G. Rosso di Montepulciano, but because of some strange requirements that were not met to meet the body’s requirements it only has the I.G.T. Toscano Rosso moniker.
This wine producer/winery is quite famous in the non-kosher world. The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese.
The nose on this wine starts with a crazy cedar box, followed by a mound of fresh Cuban Cigar tobacco, followed by loads of anise, licorice, smoked meat, followed by black and red fruit, foliage, forest floor, and more sweet cedar/oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied to full-bodied wine is not as extracted as I expected though this wine is richly expressive with loads of smoke, earth, rich tannin, nice green notes from what I can imagine is what I would get from whole-cluster and stems fermentation, with loads of rich spice, heady roasted herbs, and lovely blackberry, dark cherry, rich umami notes of balsamic and mushroom, with loads of mineral, graphite, and rich fruit-structure and focus with lovely elegance and control. The finish is long, rich, layered, and smoky, with nice control, lovely acidity, and smoke, roasted herbs, smoked meats, and soy sauce followed by more cigar smoke, and freshly tilled earth. Nice!!! Drink from 2021 until 2026. 

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The latest crop of Kosher QPR wines and some losers

It has not been long since I last posted a new list of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Kosher wines. But I am always looking for more winners, and I am sure some of these will be on the QPR wine list of 2019.

To me, Terra di Seta continues to prove that Italian wines can go mano-a-mano with the rest of the kosher wine world. They continue to excel in delivering QPR wines and they continue to prove that you can create impressive to great wines for less than 40 dollars. I have yet to taste the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva and sadly I was not a fan of the ALWAYS QPR worthy 2017 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico. The 2017 Elvi Rioja Semi, another perennial QPR winner was not my cup of tea but the 2018 vintage is a ripe wine, Mevushal, but still nice and QPR winner.

Another of those QPR superstars, in the sparkling wine world, is, of course, the Yarden Winery. Gamla is their second label behind the Yarden label, but when it comes to bubbly, the Gamla label is always well accepted. Of course, the stupid spat between Yarden Winery and Royal Wine means that we have a single wine called Gamla in Israel and Gilgal here. Why? Because these two wine businesses cannot make nice long enough to come to their senses and figure out a way to be civil with each other. I am so surprised that this is still going on today. The Gamla label, a wine made by originally by Carmel in Israel for this label in the USA, and now who knows who makes it, either way, it is not a wine worthy of this bickering, but sadly, here we are.
Now, back to the wine, I wrote about the new Gilgal Brut back in January, and the wine has moved beyond its insane acid lemon trip and it is now rounding out a bit, with some added complexity and richness.

Domaine Netofa was always on my QPR list, but sadly that was just for Israel, but thankfully Royal and Kosherwine.com have combined to bring the entire line back to the USA! I hear it is going well so get on these before they disappear!

Now, I also wanted to add a list of losers as people have been asking me what I thought of some of the newer wines and here is my response, so I have a QPR list and a NOT so QPR list.

I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2017 Domaine Netofa, Red – Score: 91 (QPR Superstar)
This wine is now exclusively imported by Kosherwine.com and I hope they are selling well. This has really stabilized now. It is a bit fruity still, but it also has some nice old-school style and swagger. The nose on this wine is nice and smoky, with great control and roasted animal. The fruit is blue and black and lovely. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is layered and with nice blueberry, blackcurrant, great acid, and great control showing earth, raspberry, root beer, that give way to spice, vanilla, and loads of dirt. The finish is ribbons of mineral, charcoal, graphite and bitter coffee, Solid!! Drink by 2021.

2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, White – Score: 91 to 92 (QPR)
Crazy Oak nose with yellow pear and apple, quince and rich saline with hay and dry herb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy good, layered, extracted and richly round, but tart, and saline bomb, with lovely tension and rich herb, and lovely sweet spices and sweet Oak. The finish off long, green, with vanilla, herb, and mint, and lemongrass, with tart lemon curd and spices. Drink by 2023.

2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 91 (QPR)
The 2017 vintage is less austere than 2016, it is more accessible now and will still hold. The nose on this wine is really nice with rich black currant, blackberry, and blue notes that give way to smoke, Oak, toasty notes, and lovely tar. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is super tart and really bright, with great acid, blackberry, blueberry, black currant, with garrigue, sweet but well-balanced note, with mouth-coating elegance and layers of concentrated fruit and earthy notes, with chocolate and sweet spices. The finish is long, bright, tobacco, mineral, pencil shavings, with tar, and root beer. Lovely! Drink now until 2022. (To be released soon I think)

2016 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe and balanced, with sweet oak, blueberry, boysenberry, with bright fruit, and loads of dirt. This wine is really still very young, showing great potential, with incredible tannin, great acid, rich layers of blue and black fruit with great aging potential, loads of chocolate and rich spice, dark fruit, and herb, all wrapped in a plush yet elegant mouthfeel. The finish is less green than past vintages, showing a more ripe fruit profile, but still clearly balanced, with foliage, tobacco, mint, and sweet spices and herbs. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2024.

2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR Superstar)
The 2018 vintage of this Albarino, in its second vintage, shows less tropical and ripe than the first vintage, 2017. This bottle also had the thermal active label, and it shows up when the bottle is at the proper drinking temperature. My only REAL and serious complaint is the cork, why would Royal waste the money and my money of a real cork? Use a Diam or any other amalgamated cork, like almost everyone else is. I really hope I do not hit a bad cork for the wines I have.
The nose on this wine is better than the 2017 vintage, Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry pear, with honeysuckle, gooseberry, along with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine, has a more oily mouthfeel than the 2017 vintage, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, more peach, green apple, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, no sense of guava or melon-like on the 2017 vintage, with a tinge of orange notes. The overall mouth is lovely and it comes at you in layers. The finish is long, green, with gooseberry, tart fruit, with an incredible freshness, and orange pith, slate, rock, and incredible acidity lingering long. Incredible!! Bravo!! Drink until 2022. Read the rest of this entry

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