A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – Feb 2023
It has been almost a year since my last “A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – release post” and a week or so from the post about the three gorgeous Burgundies from Honest Grapes and M&M Importers. So, I was really excited to write this post about even more wonderful wines from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M&M Importers. These are almost all the Italian options; some can be found in Europe from Honest Grapes while all of them are here in the USA from some stores in and around NY and NJ. Sadly, I missed the new 2016 Brunello Riserva and the other 2 Sicilian wines. I hope to get a chance to taste those soon. There is also a Chianti Classico Riserva but that is still not here in the USA yet.
Just take a quick look at the wine notes below and you will find 6 QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER scores. That is incredible for such a small number of wines. Six out of ten WINNERS is just an incredible value-based lineup. Still, the prices are on the upper end of the QPR scale but the wines themselves are quite impressive.
I had tasted the Barbera before last year and the Mevushal Arneis in January of this year. Both of these wines were solid though I really want to taste the non-mevushal version of the 2021 Pescaja Solei’ Arneis. A QPR score of WINNER and a GOOD is impressive.
The Barbera is a fun, refreshing, and enjoyable wine that will probably not become something more than it is right now but one never knows!
The biggest name on this list and the most expensive was the 2017 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino. I was ready for an over-the-top, bombastic beast of a wine, a trait that seems to be the calling card of the 2017 Brunello vintage. I was shocked when I opened the wine, first, the color threw me, and then the nose. The color of the wine, a characteristic I rarely talk about, was already bricking, but that seems to be par for the course with Brunello wines. Next, the nose was shocking, it smelled like a flower shop, filled with violets, geraniums, and very floral. Over the next two weeks I let this wine talk to me, yes, I wrote two weeks! The wine never went over the hill, it was rock solid, and it improved all the way to the finish line. Even two weeks later, the wine was not running out of steam, this is a wine that is built to go for a decade-plus, easily. Over time, the wine lost some of the floral notes and became more of what I expect from a Brunello, though it never went too ripe and never lost its precision, the only real issue I had was it felt more like a very nice Chianti than a Brunello. The tannin structure told you this was no Chianti, but the weight was clearly affected by whatever the winemaker did to counteract the screaming hot 2017 climate.
The star of these four wines, to me, is the stunning 2018 Tassi Aqua Bona, Bettina Cuvee, Montalcino. The wine went up in price but it still is on the upper edge of WINNER, by a hair, and while the price is high the wine is incredible! It has this umami and cedar notes that just blow you away! The wine’s complexity, and structure. control and elegance show well and the wine is equally built to last.
I had the Super Tuscan, the 2019 Rocca di Frassinello Le Sughere di Frassinello, Maremma Toscana twice and it showed far better this time. From the time of opening till it was done some 5 days later the wine never lost a step and shined throughout. The Sangiovese fruit shows more at the start while the Merlot makes its presence felt more later in the glass. I found the wine overall to be very nice and balanced with good acidity but overall lacked a step on the Aqua Bona.
Finally, the Pinot Noir was nice enough, it showed varietally correct, but there was not enough there to interest me.
I regret not getting the 2019 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico when it was out and available. That wine is lovely, and ethereal while being so Chianti, in all the right ways! The 2020 vintage is no slouch and it shows beautifully! A clear WINNER!
The pricing of this wine is higher than a Chianti Classico from Terra di Seta, but it is distinctly different! TDS is a wine that is sinuous, ripe, rich, and layered. The two Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico, both 2019 and 2020, is more ethereal. They are clearly built to last and while I gave them a drinking window of 9 years or so, I am sure they can last longer, but I do not yet have enough history with the wine to go farther.
I was not expecting a lot after having tasted some other 2020 Chianti wines but this wine shined beautifully! This is a wine to lie down for a bit but if you must enjoy one now, I would decant this two hours in advance. Bravo!
There are two Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines and I liked one of them and it scored a QPR score of WINNER while the other’s style was not my cup of tea.
The 2018 Valle Reale San Calisto, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is a beautiful wine and for the price, it is an obvious QPR WINNER. The balance, elegance, and structure all hit me while the acidity brings all that fruit and mouthfeel to bear. It is one of those wines that is uniquely Italian. The fruit, tertiary notes, leather, and smoke, were all unique in a single bottle but the telling characteristic was the bracing acidity, cherry notes, and ripeness. The bottle just screams Italian and is one that can be enjoyed now but only with a few hours of decanting. This would benefit a few years of bottle aging before diving in.
The 2018 Valle Reale Vigneto Sant’Eusanio, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was a wine that was just too ripe for me. Eventually, the ripeness did calm but there was nothing there to find at that point. This is a wine that the new-world crowd would like and one that can maybe be a gateway wine to helping them appreciate old-world wines.
Finally, I tasted the kosher Sicilian Merlot. This was a lovely wine that does start a bit ripe but with time it really shows its colors and shows balance with bold fruit and lovely minerality and acidity. This is a wine that you cannot judge at the opening! If you MUST open this now, I would say to decant this for some 5 hours and then pour it back into the bottle. Double decanting and 5 hours of air may shake the true colors loose but I am not promising anything. Time will let this wine be free!
This tasting was not done in a day or a week, it took over three weeks to taste through the lineup and throughout it all, I kept to the same approach. Write the initial notes at the opening, then a few hours later write any changes, and then finally over the days I would add thoughts. The wines did evolve, other than a few, and when/if they did, the notes reflect those thoughts and concerns.
My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M&M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2018 Tassi Aqua Bona, Bettina Cuvee, Montalcino – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is lovely, bright, tart, and very expressive, with notes of bramble, dirt, loam, graphite, bright red sour cherry, dark red berry, rosehip, rose petals, rich and very expressive toasted cedar, sandalwood, mushroom, and more minerality. Lovely!! The nose is so expressive from the opening and only gets better with time, impressive! The umami-centric nose is incredible with soy sauce, mushroom, and cedar notes that really take your breath away.
The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is lovely, dirty, earthy, smoky, and precise, with good fruit focus, nice dark cherry, raspberry, tart plum, scraping minerality, loam, dirt, rose petals, and lovely mushroom. With time it opens to a rich toasted cedar expression and it overtakes the mouth with beautiful fruit, intense mushroom, forest floor, plush body, and intense dirt and minerality. Lovely! With even more time the lovely cedar calms down and the ripe fruit, intense acidity, mushroom, and smoke linger long on this full-bodied wine.
The finish is long, tart, bright, and layered, with rich minerality, intense graphite, lovely soy sauce, umami notes, loam, lovely truffle, and mushroom, loam, and dirt linger long. BRAVO! Drink from 2025 until 2033. (tasted February 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2017 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino – Score: 93 (QPR: EVEN)
I rarely talk about color but this wine is brick red. The nose of this wine is a flower pot, with screaming and intense violets, rosehip, dirt, loam, tar, mint, and underbrush, with little to no red fruit on the nose, crazy! With time, the nose evolves to show lovely French oak, rich loam, dark red cherry, licorice, roasted herb, mint, garrigue, and sweet spice, lovely!
The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, with more rose, violet, and green notes, dirt, loam, and smoke, the mouth is precise and velvety, with tart plum. The real fun is the tart red berry profile, and dark sour cherry, backed by intense acidity, mineral notes, and smoke. The texture, mouthfeel, and puckering tannin structure keep getting more and more complex with time, it is still not 2016, but it has the potential to still be quite lovely, however, this needs loads of time. With even more time, the floral notes move to the background, and the puckering acidity and tannin take over, the plushness of the mouthfeel emerges and this wine is lovely!
The finish is long, tart, green, and smokey, with more flowers, nice mouth-draping tannin, licorice, and lovely acidity. Drink from 2024 until 2032. (tasted February 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Four USA QPR WINNERS (two more for France)– January 2023
I hope you all had a wonderful Gregorian Calendar New Year! This will be my last post for my blog’s Calendar year. As usual, my QPR posts are a hodgepodge of wines but thankfully we have some nice QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines.
For all those asking for my yearly Four Gates Winery post – that will have to wait till after my year-end posts. No worry, the sale will end in 14 minutes so get your wines, everyone!!
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been three months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how much garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.
The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed. Since then, there have been more hits and misses, but overall the 2019 and 2021 vintages look good enough.
My thanks to Ari Cohen for helping me again with some of these wines! The 2007 Chateau Peyrat Fourthon La Demoiselle D’Haut Peyrat, 2013 Porto di Mola Aglianico Roccamonfina, Aglianico, and the 2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida, Mendoza were all thanks to him!
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida, Mendoza – Fun, cheap, and enjoyable wine! Bravo!
- 2013 Porto di Mola Aglianico Roccamonfina, Aglianico – Maybe this was the first kosher Aglianico ever!
- 2007 Chateau Peyrat Fourthon La Demoiselle D’Haut Peyrat, – this has been popping up all over Paris – DRINK UP!
- 2019 Chateau Royaumont, Lalande de Pomerol — A little too ripe for me but solid, BEWARE there is no 2020
- 2019 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild – Another solid wine!
- 2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, Red, Galilee – A lovely Rhone-style wine that shows finesse
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2021 Chateau de Cor Bugeaud, Blaye-Cotes de Bordeaux (M) – A nice 2021 wine that is mevushal
- 2021 Barkan Chardonnay, Galilee (M) – A good Barkan Classic
- 2019 Gush Etzion Cabernet Franc, Lone Oak Tree, Judean Hills – A solid Cab Franc, with balance and a bit of elegance
- 2022 Rimapere Baron Edmond de Rothschild Sauvignon Blanc, Malborough – A sad shadow of the 21 vintage
- 2021 Pescaja Solei’ Arneis, Terre Alfieri (M) – A nice wine but the acidity is lacking
- 2019 Rocca di Frassinello Le Sughere di Frassinello, Maremma Toscana – Nice enough wine but lacking acidity
- 2021 Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc, Israel – Nice but expensive and simple SB
- 2021 Dalton Sauvignon Blanc, Fume, Galilee – A nice enough SB
- 2021 Eola Hills Wine Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon – A nice enough New-World Pinot
- 2021 Rothschild Flechas de Los Andes Gran Malbec, Mendoza – A ripe mess but many will like it
- 2019 Domaine du Castel Raziel, Judean Hills – A solid wine but too expensive
There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:
- 2021 Vitkin Pinot Noir, Judean Hills – A simple Pinot Noir
- 2020 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe (M) – One of those bad years for the Crock, such is life!
- 2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, White, Galilee – It is here because of the price, nice wine but too expensive
- 2021 1848 Winery Cabernet Franc, Judean Hills – A ripe wine that will make some happy
- 2017 Capcanes La Flor Del Flor Samso, Montsant – A ripe but controlled wine that is too expensive
- 2021 Chateau Le Petit Chaban, Bordeaux (M) – A simple enough but pleasant wine
The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds, or total failures:
- 2021 Cantina Cignozza il Generoso, Toscana – A poor wine that is also expensive
- 2021 Raziel Rose, Judean Hills – A good enough rose that is crazy expensive
- 2017 Villa Mangiacane Magnificus, Toscana – A Super Tuscan that is oaked and overripe
- 2020 Domaine Du Castel Grand Vin, Judean Hills – An average wine that is far too expensive
- 2019 Flam Noble, Israel – Another Israeli wine that is simple enough but crazy expensive
- 2021 Tzora Shoresh, Blanc, Judean Hills – Another Israeli wine that is too expensive for its quality
Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):
In this group, the best wine is the Chateau Royaumont, though this vintage is ripe, and will take a long time to calm down. There is no 2020 Chateau Royaumont, FYI.
The 2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, Red, is a lovely wine and one that will be here for a while.
The 2019 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc is the mevushal version they sell here in the USA and is quite lovely, with great balance and enough complexity.
The 2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida, Mendoza is the TRUE WINNER to me, it is available in a few places here in the USA and it is lovely! Throw in the fact that it can be found for 12 dollars here in the USA and BRAVO!
The other two wines, 2013 Porto di Mola Aglianico Roccamonfina, Aglianico, and 2007 Chateau Peyrat Fourthon La Demoiselle D’Haut Peyrat, are in France, popping up here and there in shops, nice wines, drink NOW!
Other wines of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):
This group is not a group of wines I would buy and some are not even wines I would drink if given the chance. They are Ok wines but there are far better options out there. The two that did surprise me were the 2019 Gush Etzion Cabernet Franc, Lone Oak Tree, and the 2019 Domaine du Castel Raziel, Judean Hills, both were solid wines that I did not expect.
Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):
Three wines need a comment here. The 2017 Capcanes La Flor Del Flor Samso, Montsant, finally had a decent vintage, it is a nice wine but I would buy limited to none and drink it soon.
The 2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, White, Galilee is a lovely wine, nothing like the 2017 or 2018 vintages, but the price lands the wine here.
Sadly, the 2020 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe is just an average wine and that is why it is here.
The rest of the wines are not interesting to me and are on this list because of either quality or price.
Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA POOR/BAD):
This round this list is just duds and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.
Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 6 wines I would want to buy from this entire list, but that would be a defeatist attitude. The correct way to classify this list is we have 6 more wines available to us and in the end, as I have stated many times now, I cannot buy all the WINNER wines even if I wanted to. There are just too many good wines out there and that is what we should be focused on!
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 Chateau Royaumont, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 70% Merlot & 30 % Cabernet Franc. At the opening, the wine shows its femininity, with lovely floral notes, violet, and ripe fruit, shortly after it shows a far riper expression with an intense perfume of fruit, nice loam, dirt, green notes, eucalyptus, roasted mint, and minerality. This shows you that some wines can be fruity but you can see the reality of the makeup and understand its final place. This contrasts Israeli wines whose nose and mouth are so over the top that it never comes around. With even more time the wine does return to its feminine side with lovely floral notes, still, the ripeness is there and while it is controlled it does worry me, with plum, rich loam, smoke, earth, mint, eucalyptus, and lovely fruit. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe and balanced, yet also lovely and feminine with expressive floral notes, violet, plum, cherry, rich and dense mouthfeel, not extracted yet complex, somewhat layered, mouth-drying tannin, elegant, and complex, nice sweet oak, menthol, more mint, basil, and lovely smoke. The finish is long, dirty, earthy, smoky, and ripe, with more tannin, mineral, scraping graphite, green notes, violet, and leather. BRAVO! Still, the ripeness abounds and takes over the mouth and nose it is scary. Drink from 2024 until 2032. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)
2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, Red, Galilee – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is lovely, it starts a bit slow but with some air, the wine opens to show bright fruit, herbs, smoke, roasted meat, tar, blue and red fruit, and a lovely floral bouquet, jasmine, violet, bravo! The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, and controlled, with lovely acidity, ripe boysenberry, juicy strawberry, raspberry, and rich saline, with lovely sweet oak, mouth-draping tannin, and nice minerality, nice! The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with watermelon, root beer, floral notes, and coffee. Drink by 2028. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2019 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc (M) – Score: 91.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose of this wine starts with lovely notes of ripe red and blue berries followed by rich loam, funk, rich mineral, wet dirt, tar, and green notes/foliage. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is less weighty than the 2018 vintage with lovely notes of smoke, dirt, loam, dark raspberry, currants, blueberry, Elderberries, rich funk, foliage, lovely mouth-coating tannin, a bit too many green notes, and searing acidity. The finish is long, dirty, earthy, and mineral-driven, with lovely smoke, toast, pencil shavings, graphite, more green notes, dark chocolate, and lovely tension. Drink until 2028. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida, Mendoza – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is floral, ripe, balanced, and enjoyable, with violet, rosehip, saline, green notes, dark cherry, raspberry, and smoke. The mouth of this medium-plus bodied wine is very fun, floral, ripe, well balanced, fun, with good mouthfeel, organic and without added sulfites, showing ripe plum, blackberry, raspberry, with nice mouthfeel, great acidity, balanced and fun, with lovely ripe and jammy fruit. The finish is long, ripe, balanced, and good, with smoke, mineral, roasted meat, and more floral notes. Lovely! Drink by 2024. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 14.5%)
2013 Porto di Mola Aglianico Roccamonfina, Aglianico – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER: France)
This wine is crazy, it has almost no fruit on the nose or the body but it has fruit in the structure to keep it alive with rich acidity and a lovely mouthfeel. The nose of this wine is lovely, dirty, earthy, smoky, with lovely barnyard, and rich mushroom, with hints of violet and rose. With time the wine opens to a new world. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is ripe, with dark fruit, blackberry, raspberry, smoke, elegance, rich tannin, smoke, mushroom, and lovely tea. The finish is lovely, tannic, and herbal, with lovely barnyard and floral notes, lovely. Drink now!!! (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12%)
2007 Chateau Peyrat Fourthon La Demoiselle D’Haut Peyrat, Haut-Medoc – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER: France)
This wine is 15 years old and it does not evoke happiness in me, sure it is a perfectly good wine, it is not dead, not oxidized, but it has also not evolved. This reminds me of a recent post by my friend, Avi Davidowitz, where he said something I said often to Benyo about the early day Baron Herzog wines, they survive, but they do NOT evolve as time passes. The wine is enjoyable, but I would prefer another option.
The nose of this wine is perfectly balanced, well made, and professional, but also just OK, at this point, showing little to no evolution into tertiary notes, there are mushrooms, and there is no barnyard, but the tertiary is more in the background.
The nose is nice with good mushrooms, nice dirt, earth, with red fruit, and nice smoke. To me, the nose is dominated by dirt and the surprising fruit, and the rest is in the background.
The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is where things become far less interesting, sure the acidity is impressive, and the mouthfeel and tannin cover the palate with the aid of good acidity, but the wine is just there, it has not evolved, the raspberry and cherry are nice, with good minerality, and more rich loam.
If one was, to sum up, this wine, dirt, and mushroom with some fruit would be a solid descriptor. The tannin is devolving. The finish is long, and green, with enough tannin to keep it interesting, with nice mushroom, and graphite. Drink now!!! (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)