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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

Assorted French wines I had before my travel to KFWE NYC and L.A.

After the tasting through the current portfolio of Les Vins IDS with Benjamin Uzan, we continued with other wines. I said then that I would revisit the wines that I and Elie Cohen had collected for this tasting, along with some wines that Ben Sitruk brought, that he sells on his site. I was once again joined by Elie Cohen, Ben Sitruk, and Elie Dayan, a few of the French kosher wine forum members.

To say that Victor wines are an enigma would be an understatement. They are the USA importer of some Taieb’s wines. Other Taieb wines are either imported by Royal Wine (Laurent Perrier) or Andrew Breskin’s Liquid Kosher for the Burgundies.

However, Victor Wines also makes their own wines and there are many of them. The distribution of their wines and the Taieb wines inside the USA is problematic and haphazard at best. Onlinekosherwine.com has started to sell a few. Other than that the ONLY place I have ever seen all the wines or even most of the wines in a single place is the Kosher Kingdom on Aventura BLVD in Miami/Aventura, Florida. Of course, that makes sense since Victor wine’s headquarters is in Hollywood, FL, not far from Miami or Aventura, Florida.

The family that runs Victor Wines has been the in meat and restaurant business for many years according to their website.

Ari Cohen bought a bunch of the wines, ones that were not available at the family’s restaurants. Then we bought the rest of the wines at the restaurant and we were ready to taste them. Overall, I was not impressed. The wineries where they make the wines are not that impressive but I am always looking for good news. Also, Ben brought in some wines, like the WONDERFUL 2010 Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon. Sadly, the 2010 La Demoiselle D’Haut-Peyrat, the second label of Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon, was dead. We also tasted the Chateau Gardut Haut Cluzeau, which is another name for Grand Barrail that I tasted a few times with Nathan Grandjean.

Finally, we had dinner the next night and we brought tons of wines over and there were really only a few wines that were either interesting or new to me and those are also listed below.

Many thanks to Arie Cohen and Ben Sitruk for bringing a couple of wines to taste, including the Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon wines and the Chateau Gardut Haut Cluzeau. Thanks to Jonathan Assayag for bringing a wine I have never tasted to the dinner, the 2005 Chateau Moncets, Lalande de Pomerol. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2015 Chateau Rollan de By, Medoc, 2010 Chateau Peyrat-Fourthon, Haut-Medoc, 2015 Chateau Tour Blanche, Medoc, 2010 La Demoiselle D'Haut-Peyrat, Haut-Medoc, 2018 Chateau Gardut Haut Cluzeau

2010 La Demoiselle D’Haut-Peyrat, Haut-Medoc – Score: NA
Sadly this wine was dead

2015 Chateau Tour Blanche, Medoc – Score: 70
This wine is all over the place, just a pure mess, sad. The fruit and mouthfeel are black with hints of red notes, but besides that, the wine is really not that interesting at all. Sad. 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

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.

Read the rest of this entry

The last round of winners and some more losers for 2019

So, I tasted a bunch of these at the KFWE in Miami and I spent my entire time there tasting through wines that made me cry. I mean they were so painful, all I could write was NO. Some I wrote nice and some I wrote good stuff. Overall, the Israeli wines were undrinkable and so painful that I had to go back to the French table just to clean my palate. It continues to make me sad to see such potential thrown out to meet the absolute lowest common denominator – fruity, loud, and brash wines.

Sadly, Cellar Capcanes continues its downward spiral. The 2018 Capcanes Peraj Petita is not very good at all. Far better than 2017 or 2016, but that is not saying much. So sad, to see such a storied franchise being thrown away for what I can only guess is the need for a new winemaker to make her mark.

Domaine Netofa continues to crush it and thank goodness it is selling well here in the USA, so that means I can stop schlepping Netofa from Israel! The 2015 Chateau Tour Seran was also lovely while the Chateau Rollan de By was OK, while the 2015 Chateau Haut Condissas showed far better than it did in France. The 2018 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection was nice but it was less of a WOW than the 2017 vintage, at least so far anyway.

At the tasting, the 2017 whites and 2018 roses were all dead, please stop buying them. Heck, even many of the simpler 2018 whites were painful.

So, here are my last notes before the year-end roundup and best of posts that I will hopefully post soon! These wines are a mix of wines I tasted at the KFWE Miami and other wines I tasted over the past month or so since my return from France. I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: 87
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 15% Syrah. This wine is ripe really ripe, with dark blackberry, with loads of dark brooding fruit, floral notes, and herb, and heather. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is sweet, ripe, and date-like, with dark cherry, sweet candied raspberry, smoke, candied black fruit, and sweet notes galore. The toast, earth, sweet fruit, and smoke finish long. Move on.

2018 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: 89 (Mevushal)
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 15% Syrah. This wine is far better than the not-Mevushal version. This wine is actually showing less ripe, with dark blackberry, with loads of red fruit, floral notes, and herb, and oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is much less sweet, with dark cherry, sweet raspberry, smoke, candied black fruit, with nice tannin, and good acidity. The finish is long, slightly green, smoky, and herbal, with toast and red fruit. Very interesting how the mevushal is less ripe, go figure. Drink now.

2018 Domaine Netofa Latour, White – Score: 92+ (Super QPR)
Wow, what a lovely wine, this wine is 100% Chenin Blanc aged 10 months in oak barrels. The nose on this wine is pure heaven, but it is slow to open, once it does, the wine is lovely with loads of floral notes, yellow flowers, orange blossom, rosehip, and lovely white fruit, pear, peach, and smoke/toast. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, with great acidity, clear and present, with layers of sweet and dry fruit, with candied and toasted almonds, hazelnuts, with hay and straw, followed by floral notes, tart melon, lemongrass, citrus galore, yellow apple, quince, baked apple, and dry grass and earth, lovely! The finish is long, dry, tart, and butterscotch-laden, with toast, smoke, ginger, and marzipan, Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2025.

2018 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection – Score: 90 (QPR)
This is a drier wine than the 2017 vintage but it lacks the petrol level and funk of 2017, still a nice wine.The nose on this wine is almost dry, with lovely notes of floral notes and loads of melon, sweet fruits, and stone fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice with lovely pith, hints of saline, with hints of petrol, dry flowers, with lovely peach, guava, and loads of citrus and mineral. The finish is long, dry, with hints of sweet notes, funk, and pith that is fun. Nice. Drink by 2022. Read the rest of this entry

Two more wines for the road, and some 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau

Well, after the trip to Taieb’s offices to taste the wines, I made my way back to Paris and then eventually home. Before I left Paris to return home I bought two wines I had not seen before. One was an IDS wine that started off slow but came around and another was what can only be called the absolute Poster Child for all that is wrong in the kosher wine world today. The IDS made 2016 Chateau la Tour de By is ripe to start but it came around nicely with time. The 2017 Maison Blanche, Medoc is what is wrong with Kosher wine today. I first thought this wine was not actually made at a Chateau or winery with any history or past wines. That is not true, the wine is made at Chateau Maison Blanche, but it does not use the Chateau moniker which makes me wonder. In the end, whether this is a run of fruit or a real wine, it was not good, flat, boring, no acid, no life, all that was good about that wine was on the outside (bottle and label), the inside was empty. If that was not bad enough, to add insult to injury, or salt to the wound, this wine sells for 40 euro in France! Like what! This just screams more about what I have a real issue within the world of kosher French wine, and overall in the kosher wine industry. The prices are out of control and most of the time, the wine does not live up to those prices. Sure, we have wonderful QPR options but P in QPR keeps going up to meet with the Q and there lies in the problem!

The day before I returned home, I was invited to a party hosted by ED from the French wine group on Facebook, thanks to EK for hooking me up. There was a tasting of some Falesco wines, and they were on par with what I have had before. Many thanks to ED for hosting! At the tasting, EK brought a bottle of 2005 late disgorged Yarden Blanc de Blanc and I was 100% SHOCKED at how flat and dead it was. Either something was VERY wrong with that bottle, or it is further proof that Brut Nature sparkling wines are not built to last. That wine was Late Disgorged two years or so and it was 100% flat. Read more about my discussion on Brut Nature wines and the issues with them. Also, my post on the LD 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc, Brut that I had earlier this year.

Finally, we tasted some of the 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau wines. There were two on the table, one was the 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, Duc de Pagny and the other was the 2019 Taieb Beaujolais Nouveau rose or something like that. Anyway, the Duc de Pagny was 100% disgusting, it was bubble gum flavored banana juice, it was worse than Manischewitz. The Taieb Beaujolais Nouveau was not a wine I would buy but it was not nearly as offensive, which is a compliment in regards to Beaujolais Nouveau.

I brought the two bottles to the tasting and sadly they did not show well there, though the Tour de By did turn around the next day.

ED was the consummate host, he had a table full of food, sandwiches, and charcuterie, but I was so full from the food over Shabbat that I was not in the need of any more food. That said, there was this hunk of cote de boeuf and a crazy cake that I tasted a drop of each.

My many thanks to ED and EK and the entire group of French wine lovers. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Chateau la Tour de By, Medoc – Score: 91
Wow, this wine is hot showing really ripe and bold with brooding black fruit, with loads of chocolate, oak, spice, and really ripe fruit, with hints of green notes and herb. With time the nose cools down showing fruit without all the crazy heat, with loads of them and black fruit, with spice, smoke, tar, and earth, lovely. The mouth on this full bodied wine is richly layered and black with hints of raspberry, loads of blackberry, smoke, rich and dense and plush mouthfeel with incredible extraction and earth galore, with a whole in the middle, that gets hidden over time with a lovely tannin structure. The finish on this wine is rich and layered and smoky with milk chocolate, leather, and loads of sweet spices, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Nice! Drink until 2026.

2017 Maison Blanche, Medoc – Score: NA
Flat and flabby wine. Showing nothing but fruit and no balance. Sad.

2005 Yarden Blanc de blanc, late disgorged, Brut Nature – Score: NA
Flat and dead barely any bubbles and the acidity was lost. I hope it was a bad bottle. I fear it could the issue with Brut nature wines. Yarden’s late disgorged wines are brut nature in implementation.

2019 Beaujolais Nouveau rose, Taieb – Score: Not bad
Not bad for a Beaujolais Nouveau but not a wine I buy.

2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, Duc de Pagny – Score: NA
Disgusting bubble gum and banana juice. Horrible.

Taieb continues to excel at making solid wines for reasonable prices in France

After our miraculous escape from the hotel which brought vivid memories of one of my favorite songs of all time – Hotel California, highlighted by the most famous line in that song: ”Relax said the night man, we are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”. If you were there, the dude almost said those words as we were running for the door, anyway, on to more happy thoughts.

We escaped “Hotel California” and made our way to the train station in Lyon for our trip to Roanne. This train is the common man’s train, and it allowed us an interesting glimpse into the melting pot of France’s middle class. The trains from Paris or Strasbourg were TGV trains and though they can be bought on the cheap, they are for folks moving between large cities. This train was a commuter train, the only real way to get from Lyon to Roanne.

This trip to Taieb wines was far less insane than the trip earlier this year from London, that trip was too crazy to even believe. This one was far simpler, other than the Hotel California issue. That said, overall it took two trains and an automobile to get Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and me from Strasbourg to Roanne. Yoni Taieb from Taieb Wines was so kind as to pick us up from the Roanne train station and take us to the offices.

Sadly, there had been a death in the family so George Taieb, Yoni Taieb’s father, could not join us, but Yoni was so nice to facilitate the tasting.

Kosher wine pricing again

If you look at the kosher wine producers/facilitators in France, Taieb comes out far ahead in regards to their pricing and quality. I love that we have kosher Chateau Leoville Poyferre or Smith Haut Lafitte, but those prices are crazy, absolutely bonkers, especially when you see their non-kosher pricing (showing at double the price). Again, I have spoken about pricing many times, and no matter how often I talk about it, it is still crazy to me, that we pay such high prices for kosher wine.

There are two issues here. One is that the big-name wines are super expensive and this issue continues to disallow others from enjoying such wines, given the price tag. Secondly, the lower stature wines, ones that are still fun to enjoy and QPR wines, are far and few between, when you look at the sub-20 dollar bracket. Look at Kosherwine.com and tell me how many sub-20 dollar QPR wines exist? In red, there is THREE, 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux, the 2018 Elvi Herenza Rioja, and the 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon. THREE wines I would buy for under 20 dollars and two fo them are Mevushal! Under 10 dollars there are none.

In France, under 10 Euros, there are MANY! There lies in the issue. Obviously, to get a wine from France to here takes hands and hands cost money, but Taieb had four wines that I would buy under 10 Euros. If they were brought here, they would probably cost 20 dollars. Overall, this is the issue. The second you add hands into the picture it gets too expensive. Royal Wines makes the wines, imports the wines, and sells them to distributors. So, within all that, you have cut out many hands that would otherwise raise the cost structures. If Taieb exported the lovely 2018 Baron David, Bordeaux, which costs 9 or so Euros and even less when on sale, and the importer added his costs, this wine would probably sell for 23 dollars. This is what is so broken with the system. Of course, I have no issue with people making a living! That is not the discussion here. The issue I have is that there are MANY sub-10 dollar wines from France in the USA and some are quite nice, even scored a 90 by Wine Spectator. That is just one example. I do not get it. Are we saying that these wines, yes it is sold by Costco and Trader Joe’s, so their margins may be a bit thinner? But do they not make money? Does the importer not make money? The winery? The Distributor in the USA? The non-kosher market for sub-10 dollar wines follows the same system as kosher wines. So, please where is the money going? The kosher supervision on wines like this are a total joke, maybe 20 cents a bottle, so please move on from that. Why is it so hard to import this Baron David and make it work for everyone? Why is it not that difficult for the non-kosher market? There lies in my question!

Anyway, in France, these wines are a wonderful buy and I hope those that live there get a chance to taste them, as they are 100% worth the money!

So, to repeat the Taieb wines in the USA are hard to find, other than the Burgundy wines, because of the horrible wine distribution of Victor Wines and Touton wines, here in the USA. It is a shame as they make 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. Still, that is only for the few wines that are imported here in the first place. Vive la France for QPR kosher wines!

Taieb Wines

Yoni Taieb and the wines

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. The Domaine Lescure was epic in 2014 and 2015, it had a hiccup with the 2016 vintage, but the 2017 vintage is lovely as well!

The line of kosher wines that Taieb produces 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. Read the rest of this entry

Wines we enjoyed in Lyon on our way to Taieb

After tasting the wines in Strasbourg with Nathan Grandjean, for a second time, we made our way to the Strasbourg train station in rapid haste, with very little time to spare, not a common theme for me when it comes to traveling. I do not believe in the EH mode of travel – that is for sure! Luckily, Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and I made our train with a few minutes to spare. This train would take us on a slightly diagonal path from Strasbourg to the Lyon, Southeast of Paris near the Italy and Switzerland borders. The train does not run very commonly in this direction so it was going to be ugly if we missed it. The other option, which is surprisingly not faster, would have been to go back to Paris and then from partis to Lyon. This is a direct train and a bit closer, and it would not require a switch of the station within Paris to boot! That would have been really “fun” – Yikes, B”H the crazy Uber driver got us there.

Overall, Uber had serious issues with me and my phone, but that is a story for another day. The train rise took 5+ hours and once we arrived in Lyon, we made our way to Arié Elkaim’s wine shop, MesVinsCacher, where we bought some wines. The most humorous part of that visit was that we arrived at 5:30 PM and the street was deserted. There was literally not a light to be seen on the street from any storefront. I was sure I had given the Uber driver the incorrect address. Thankfully, I called the number to the wine shop and Arie replies and says he will be right down! Like what? Down from where? Anyway, B”H, they are doing a full remodel of the wine store and we came when they were not yet complete. Thankfully, they had the wines we wanted to taste and then Arie nicely drove us to dinner.

Restaurants in Lyon do not come well regarded, at least from what my friends tell me. The place Arie took us to was a restaurant called 43 Comptoir, and the food was solid enough. It is not epic, or gastronomic in any way, but solid food worked fine for us two. The Foie Gras was nice and the burger was well made for a French restaurant, where beef is really not the thing to enjoy in France. USA beef far exceeds the French beef, but you cannot beat the Foie Gras and the lamb is really nice as well.

After that, we made our way to our hotel and calling where we slept that night – a hotel, well that is kind of like saying World War II was a mistaken-exchange of friendly fire. WOW, that place was super strange on so many levels. I could literally write another 10,000 words about that “home”. Suffice it to say, we will never return there and yeah, maybe the streets would have been a better option. I have no idea what happened, but Lyon was SOLD OUT the one night we needed to sleep there. Getting all the way to where Taieb’s offices are is not a simple task. I laid that out in my post from earlier this year. Thankfully, it did not require planes, but there were indeed 4 trains and two automobiles. We decided to break the task up into parts and stop just short of Roanne, where Taieb’s offices are. The issue was finding a hotel near the train station in Lyon. Sadly they were all sold out. Next time we are sticking with the Marriott, I do not care how much it costs!!!

Anyway, we tasted these four wines at the hotel and at the restaurant during dinner. We tasted them again the next morning and that is a wrap. Lyon is over, and the next post will have us going to Roanne to taste the latest wines with Yoni Taieb at Taieb’s Offices. A little disclaimer – I really like what Taieb is doing. They are making nice to great wines for prices that are really reasonable to a bit expensive. More on this overall on the next post, until then – enjoy the notes on these four wines and be sure to stick with the Marriott in Lyon!!!!

My many thanks to Arie for opening the door and best of luck with your store. Also, thanks for the ride to the restaurant and the restaurant suggestion. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 La Chene de Margot (AKA Chateau Bellerive Dubois) Blanc, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux – Score: 90 (Mevushal)
I wanted Avi to try this wine so we bought it and while the lovely zip of acidity was lacking in the bottle we bought it was alive and well when we tasted the VERY same wine at Taieb’s offices. This one was still nice. Showing much like I remember from my previous posts about it, except for the lower acidity level. This wine is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc.
The nose on this wine is still the star,  showing fresh cut grass, gooseberry, lime, lemon, and lovely fruit, and herb. The mouth on this wine is classic cool climate fruit, with slightly less zip in the acidity, with a still lovely mouth structure, showing lovely lime drops, starfruit, and crazy citrus, with dry orange, mineral, saline, and pink grapefruit. The finish is long and tart, with green apple, rich fruit pith, and fun tart fruit notes throughout. Bravo! Drink before 2020.

2015 Chateau Haut Condissas, Prestige, Medoc – Score: 92 to 93
This wine is mushroom cloud heaven, the nose is far less open than previous vintages with crazy mushroom, smoke, crazy mineral, with black and red fruit galore, showing mint, oregano, Menthol, and roasted herbs, with brightness all over the nose. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe but controlled with red and green notes, showing screaming tannin, with mouth-drying structure, backed by ripe blackberry, menthol, green notes galore, with loads of fruit, menthol, and graphite, backed by cassis, and currants. The finish is long, green, ripe, and slightly over the top, not perfectly balanced, with milk chocolate, earth, and smoke, with tobacco, cedar, tannin, and menthol lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2022 until 2027.

2015 Clos des Menuts, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru – Score: 89
The nose on this wine is ripe, 2015 is proving to be a ripe year, with loads of black and red fruit, with dark roots, showing lovely barnyard, mineral, licorice, and cedarwood. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, like dark brooding black fruit ripe, not date juice, but did I say ripe? This is ripe, with blackberry, dark plum, with lovely mineral, green notes galore, with too much ripeness for me, showing milk chocolate, with a bit of finesse, with not enough complexity to grab my attention, showing graphite, hints of salinity, and loads of mouth coating tannin. The finish is long, green, ripe, and round, with tannin and earth, with more milk chocolate, tobacco, and spice. Nice! Drink from 2022 until 2027.

2015 Chateau Cheval Brun, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru – Score: 92 to 93
The nose on this wine is red, really red fruit, with bright fruit, showing hints of black fruit in the background, with barnyard, forest floor, and licorice, and floral notes of Violet, and nutmeg showing elegance on the nose. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is far better than the Menuts, it is less black and not nearly as ripe, with lovely green notes, lovely raspberry, dark cherry, currants, with layers upon layers of fruit, tannin, smoke, and tar, with screaming acidity, mouth coating tannin, with dark chocolate covering forest floor, dry tobacco, and lovely saline, olives, and loads of mineral. The finish is long, green, with foliage, tobacco, earth, loam, roasted herbs, and graphite lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2030.

A wine tasting of some great and sadly poor to uninspired 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 kosher French wines with Nathan Grandjean

When I last left off on the story of my trip to France, I had just ended an epic tasting of the new 2017 wines from Royal Wines. I then jumped on a train, and I was once again joined by Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and we made our way to Strasbourg for a tasting of Alsace wines and other wines that are not made by Royal. It included some new 2016, 2017, and 2018 wines, but once again it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintage.

2018 French wines to the rescue

Now, I need to get on my soapbox for two major topics, the first is how AWESOME the 2018 vintage is showing right now. At this tasting and again with Yoni Taieb of Taieb Wines, the 2018 vintage shows itself incredibly well wit the simple entry-level wines of Bordeaux. It takes them from tinny and boring wines to rich and well-balanced wines, that sell for 8 euros or less! This is something that we will never get in the USA! Sadly, the only wine that comes close to this is the 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux and maybe the 2018 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur, but I think this wine will be above the 10 dollar price of the Chateau Les Riganes.

On the trip to France, two things came up often, when I was speaking French with the natives, something I was not able to do as much with Avi around, as Avi still needs to learn French! One, and this really shocked me, was how common French folk think California is dangerous when I would tell them where I am from, because of all the media of the horrific shootings we have had in our state. Besides that, the Jews I spoke to, especially the ones who drink kosher wine, complain bitterly about the cost of French wines! The more I look at this issue the more it makes me wonder, why are the wines so expensive? Yes, there is a cost for kosher supervision, but that cost does not explain the double or triple pricing of the non-kosher cost. That question is even more exaggerated in France, where there is no three-legged-stool in regards to wine distribution. Yes, France has Negociants, but for the lower level wines that is a practice that is going the way of the dodo bird.

The truth is that what is needed are reasonably priced wines. Avi Davidowitz, on his Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog scores wines partially based upon price. I do not agree for many reasons, which we discussed over our trip, but it does NOT diminish the overarching issue which is 100% true, kosher wine prices have gotten 100% OUT OF CONTROL. Sorry, this is insane and before someone tells me it is the Chateau’s fault for having such high En Primeur pricing, the kosher wine prices are shockingly higher. This really needs to be rebooted, IMHO, but sadly, it will stay the same until we get into a serious crunch or glut, whichever occurs first. Yes, we are blessed with some QPR wines, and I always post about them, but overall, the grand cru wines are getting out of control.

That is why I am so happy with the 2018 simple wines from Bordeaux. Sadly they will not come to the USA under those prices, but for those in France, there are serious options.

2015 and 2016 Magrez wines are a total failure, IMHO

Last year, I wrote that this post was coming, but I had to taste the 2015 and 2016 Pape Clement first before I could make my feelings clear. At this point, I have tasted the 2015 Magrez reds 5 times and the 2016 whites 2 times. I am 100% comfortable with saying they have all taken a seriously far step backward from the epic 2014 vintage. The 2014 Magrez were world-class wines and wines I have bought happily. However, I can not say the same for any of the 2015 or 2016 kosher Magrez wines I have tasted to date. I was very disappointed when I tasted the kosher 2015 Pape Clement, and I was shocked by the results of the 2015 Tour Carnet, Fombrouge, and others. The 2016 Pape Clement is better than the 2015 vintage, but it is not worth the bottle it is in. The whites have all also lost a few serious steps from the 2014 vintage. Personally, I will not be buying any of the 2015 or 2016 Magrez wines I tasted, other than the Pape Clement wines I tasted that I bought En Primeur.

Now, with that aside, I can clearly state that the wines are not undrinkable, they are not date juice, they are not unprofessionally made, they are simply boring, lackluster, and flat, with little to grab your attention. They are simply not wines worthy of the price or their names, sadly, they are what they are.

I miss Weingut Von Hovel and the Gefen-Hashalom wines

Two years ago Nathan Grandjean and I made a run for Von Hovel, and I wanted to do that again year after year, and maybe even Nik Weis. Sadly, they told me there were no new wines for 2017 or 2018, and now I just heard there was none made in 2019 either. I am really so sad, those wineries have so much potential, but I guess Gefen Hashalom (“Vine of Peace”) felt they had too much inventory already. I am really not sure what they have that is not sold? All the Nik Weis wines are sold, from what I know, Gary got the rest of the 2016 wines. Von Hovel did not make any wines after the 2015 vintage, and they have nothing left either. I really hope they make wines in 2020.

Wine Tasting at Nathan Grandjean

After last year’s solid tasting with Nathan Grandjean, I had tasted all of the 2015 French wines that I know of. The 2016/2017/2018 wines are slowly being released, from producers other than Royal. Kosher Wine International, the producers for all the Magrez wines, has now fully released the 2015 wines. Two days after this tasting we would be tasting Taieb wines, but we wanted to taste the 2017 Domaine Lescure Pommard, so that was on the list.

After last year’s tasting of a few Magrez 2015 wines and my other tastings of them at two wine events, I wanted the chance to taste them YET AGAIN, with both of the Pape Clement and the new 2016 Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes. So, I had Nathan get all the 2015 and 2016 Magrez wines that are available and we tasted them over two days. Thankfully, we also had a couple of wonderful wines and some duds.

Finally, we tasted all of Nathan Grandjean’s Les Vins de Vienne wines from both the 2017 vintage and the 2018 whites. He had some tank samples of the 2018 reds, but honestly, they were not ready for me to write proper notes on. Read the rest of this entry

Tasting of Royal’s 2017 and some 2018 French wines in France

This is my third year tasting wines with Menahem Israelievitch in Paris and it is the first one that is not related to my visit to Bordeaux three years ago, almost to the date of this tasting (give or take two weeks). Three years ago, I was given the opportunity to taste many of the 2015 and 2016 wines from the barrel at each of the wineries in Bordeaux.

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.

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While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, the 2017 vintage is not like that at all. The 2017 vintage in Bordeaux, though this is a massive simplification and generalization of the 2017 vintage, was overall less ripe than the 2015/16 vintages and maybe even in some cases a drop less than the 2014 vintage. The 2017 vintage flowered early and then the frost came, which killed off a fair amount of the fruit from the vines (Grapevines are self-pollinating and as such the flowers are an all-or-nothing situation in regards to yield). Quality itself is not affected by the early frost which froze the flowers, while the rest of the season was mostly OK, except for the late rains that diluted some of the acidity, again this is an overall generalization, with varying degrees of difference between the Chateaus.

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 really just ages the wine rather than ruining it.

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2017 vintage will be, the 2017 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2017 Chateau Greysac, 2017 Chateau Chateau de Parsac, 2017 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, 2017 Chateau Le Crock, 2017 Cuvee Hautes Terres, Chateau Fourcas Dupre, along with the whites wines, the 2018 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay, the 2018 Les Marronniers, Chablis,  and the 2018 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 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.

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. This year I was not alone in my tasting, I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. 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 30 wines. There was one missing wine, the 2018 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur and two of the wines were bad, I did taste them later in the week and they are listed here as if I tasted them at the tasting.

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:

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis – Score: 93 (QPR madness) (Mevushal)
This wine is made with native yeasts and as little manipulation as possible. The nose on this wine is beautiful with orange blossom, yellow apple, and rosehip, with lemon curd, and yeasty and creamy notes. This is so much better than the 2016 or 2017 vintage, this is so much fun! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy fun, intense acidity, incredible salinity, piercing, almost painful, with lovely layers of lemon, grapefruit, with quince, and pie crust, with Anjou pear, and quince. The finish is long, crazy long, almost oily, mostly creamy, with baked pear and apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and loads of mineral, with slate, rock, and saline. Bravo!! Drink until 2023 maybe 2024.

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis, Premier Cru, Cote de Jouan – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR)
The nose on this wine is closed, but it shows lovely notes of mineral, slate, blossom water, and loads of citrus, with apple, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is rich, layered, and impressive, with a rich oily mouthfeel, showing a lovely weight, with yellow apple, tart citrus, Asian Pear, and beautiful acidity that is well integrated with a strong mineral core, showing Orange pith, with tart citrus and slate and yellow plum, with saline, and more earth and hints of nectarines and orange. Lovely! Drink from 2020 to 2024 may be longer. Read the rest of this entry

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