As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, with Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. The sheer number of boxes in our room was insane, somewhere nearly 120 bottles of wine came to our hotel or to Ari Cohen’s home. The poor bellman pushing that cart laden with wine boxes was a site to see.
We were in Paris for a week and during that time Avi and I had three organized tastings with Bokobsa, Royal Wine, and IDS. We also tasted some 80+ wines in the hotel room, blindly, in 5 rounds, each time following the methodology defined below. This post will showcase the wines we had in rounds 1 and 2.
Blind Tasting Methodology
Thankfully, my posts can stop referencing COVID and focus on wine. So, let us get to the process. This time I wanted to break up the normal approach, or taste wines from the distributor or wine producers and instead taste the wines blind in their respective groups. The methodology was simple, bag all the wines, hand them to Avi who wrote a number/letter, and then line them up for the tasting. Then we taste them in numerical/alphabetical order and write the notes. After the first pass, we taste the wines again to see if they have changed. Then we show the wines and write the names down. We did find a few anomalies in the system. First, the more closed wines needed time to open and those were tasted again later. If there were flaws at the start those stayed in the notes, at least for me, and if there were issues after they were also written.
White wines and Sparkling Wines (First Round)
There were a few shockers, in this round, the shockers were all for the bad! Sadly, this round and the subsequent one with simple red wines were underwhelming to deeply disappointing. There were TWO WINNERs in the first TWO rounds and they were repeat WINNERs from previous tastings I had with Avi last year in November 2021 and with Nathan Grandjean in 2017. I have also included a wine I tasted TWICE over the past month or so, the 2016 Yarden Rose, Brut, it is underwhelming, much akin to its brother the 2016 Yarden Blanc de Blancs. Both are underwhelming and very sad as this is the first time that I ever had a Yarden Sparkling wine I did not like on release. Very sad indeed! If you want sparkling wines stick to Drappier, Laurent Perrier, Gilgal, and others.
The other disappointing wine was the highly anticipated 2020 Chateau Olivier Blanc, sadly it did not live up to expectations. At the start it was horrible flat peach juice, if you read my original blind tasting – it went like this, “This wine is cooked peach juice, flat and useless. Drink never.” Literally. The wine evolved over three days! The same thing could be said for the 2020 Chateau Olivier red and the famous 2020 Carillon d’Angelus Saint-Emilion. Though the reds wines were less flat and more closed tightly.
Other than the lone WINNER and the disappointing 2020 Chateau Olivier Blanc, there were no wines that were very interesting at all. There were a few new ones, like the 2020 Les Vins de Vienne Saint-Peray, Les Bialeres, disappointing, and lacked acidity and balance. The 2021 Casa E.di Mirafiore Roero Arneis DOCG was also a dud, both white and red. Overall, nothing very good here, but hey my pain is your gain!
2020 Vintage versus 2021 Vintage in Bordeaux
I will repeat what I wrote previously, as this post will showcase far more 2021 wines from Bordeaux. So far, the sample size of 2021 wines from Bordeaux includes very few big names because they are still in the barrels. Or should be! So, the sample size of 2021 wines from Bordeaux is all simpler and of lower starting quality. Still, what is apparent, from this sample size, is that 2021 will be a very hard year. The 2020 vintage, by contrast, is hit and miss, and so far, while the hits have been solid, there are no home runs, and we have tasted most of the wines we expect to rave about from the 2020 vintage. There will be one 95-scoring wine, ONE, from all the wines we tasted on this trip. I expect even fewer exceptional wines from the 2021 vintage and I personally, will be buying far fewer of the 2020 or 2021 wines. Finally, the wine notes from the 2020 vintage should be witness to the fact that while the 2020 wines are OK to good, they are far more accessible than previous vintages. The glaring exception to that will be highlighted in a subsequent post.Read the rest of this entry
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. The total number of boxes in our hotel room, much like in June, still makes me laugh!
As I stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. Even vaccinated, I was worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Almost all the wines below were tasted with Avi, in our hotel room, a few were tasted after he returned home to Israel.
I truly enjoyed the Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc we had in June. So, I made sure Avi tasted that along with other wines from the winery, which was only released after I left Paris in June. The rose and white were nice while the Cab and Merlot were less interesting.
White wines from all over France
For the most part, the list was weak as it had too many boring Chablis. There were one or two nice wines, so look for those WINNERS. The best of that group has the worst name I have ever seen – LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc – like seriously??? Anyway, horrible name – great wine!
Charles Pere & Fils Burgundy Wines
I was hoping to enjoy some 2020 Burgundy wines, but sadly, none of them stood out in a good way. They felt rushed, not complete, and overall, lackluster. I hope subsequent vintages will be better.
We had wines from Famille Daubree and Les Vins De Vienne and neither of them stood out. Again, they were very ripe, and we gave them days to come around, they never did. These are not what I am looking for. They are well made but too ripe for me. If you like well-made ripe French wine, try them out.
Various Bordeaux Wines
This group was a total loser, just like in June, except this time – there were no new wines to save me! Thankfully, for Avi, there were many of the wines I enjoyed in June, but for me, there was not a SINGLE red wine I would drink. That is how bad the options were!
German Weingut Gehring Wines
These wines were the most enjoyable and reasonably priced wines we tasted in our own tasting. The wines were made for an Israeli entrepreneur, who was going to sell them to hotels and restaurants, but sadly, he died, and the wines just sat in Germany! Some of them made their way to Israel anyway and that is where Avi and a few others saw them and worked crazy hard to buy them. Avi brought one wine with him, but I wanted to taste them all, there are three of them.
Weingut Gehring made three kosher wines with this gentleman who passed away, a Riesling, Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris), and an off-dry muscat. So, while I was in France I called the winery and paid them to ship the wines to my hotel, which worked perfectly! That was how I was able to taste all three of them. The wines that were sent to me all have Hebrew back labels as they were meant for the Israeli market and while the Hechsher is good it is not one many would know.
Thoughts on this tasting
Overall, these wines were unimpressive, but wow did we find some real sleepers! The 2020 LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc, Les Cimes, Haut-Poitou, Loire Valley is a no-brainer for those in France/Europe. Same for the two german wines. Other than that it was a total mess and I hope the next trip will have better options!
Though none of these wines will ever make it to the USA shores, some are in Israel and I feel bad for you. The LeChateau is in Israel, but I have no idea if there were transport issues, like with many other French wines imported into Israel, in the past. The two German wines were in Israel but I have no idea about their distribution. Either way, thankfully, these wines can stay in France/Europe, there is nothing I want here, other than maybe the German wines, but I think they are all spoken for.
2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Rose, Vin de France – Score: 90.5 (QPR: GREAT)
Clean smelling rose with good lines, bright fruit, floral notes of violet, honeysuckle, raspberry, honeyed fruit, and tart lemon. Nice job, the mouth on this medium-bodied rose is tart, right on the money, well priced, with lovely strawberry, sweet pomelo, mango, with searing acidity, tart lemon, lemon pith, sweet peach, and nice refreshing acidity to bring it all together – nice! The finish is long, ripe, and well-balanced, with slate, acid, and good fruit. Nice! Drink now! (tasted November 2021)
2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Blanc, Vin de France – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is very fruity, smells a lot like Viognier, with white peach, apricot, funk, guava, and sweet fruit. The mouth on this opens slowly, with nice acidity, that is slow to fully show, nice acidity, with guava, ripe peach, Pomelo, sweet honeysuckle, honeyed tropical fruit, and ripe melon. The finish is long, tart, ripe, and well balanced, with more funk, saline, mineral, and slate. Nice! (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.50%)
With 2020 coming to a close, I am posting the top sparkling wines, but to be clear, I drink sparkling wine all year round! We have been blessed recently with Yarden selling their Gilgal Sparkling wine for under 20 dollars a bottle! Honestly, there is no better deal out there and that is why they were the wines of the year last year! Yarden continues to impress with their 2014 entries and they are the sparkling wine producers to beat, for anyone entering this market.
How is Sparkling wine made?
There are many options – but the vast majority of sparkling wines fall into three categories:
- Le Méthode Champenoise (Méthode Traditionnelle)
- Methode Ancestrale
- The Charmat Method
Le Méthode Champenoise (Méthode Traditionnelle)
So, what is Champagne and how do we get all those cool bubbles? Well, it all starts with a grape of some sort, in most cases, Chardonnay, but we will get back to the other varietals further down. For now, like all wine on planet earth, Champagne starts with a grape. It is picked (often early to lower alcohol and increase acidity), then crushed, pressed, and allowed/encouraged to go through primary fermentation, exactly like all white wines on planet earth. At this point, most houses ferment the base wine in metal tanks or barrels. Some still use wood, but they are the minority.
Of course, like much of France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne), especially in Champagne, the wine can be chaptalized after racking, until an 11% ABV. Now before the heat waves that have covered much of this earth (call it what you wish), Bordeaux and Champagne prayed to hit their desired mark of ABV, and therefore they used to add sugar to bring up the ripeness on their fruit. Nowadays, Champagne is picking earlier and earlier, and Chaptalization is not a common thing anymore, as mother nature is taking care of the fruit’s ripeness all on her own!
Once the wine has been fermented the next question arises, should they let the base wine go through a wine’s second natural fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation? Most allow the fermentation to take place and require it, a fact that is easy nowadays with controlled winery environments, though some do not like it at all. Finally, the barrels/tanks are blended or in the rare case, kept aside as a Vintage Champagne, meaning the base wine used in it, is sourced from one vintage and not a blend of a few vintages.
So, at this point what we have is base wine, and while it may be an OK wine, it is far from what the final product will be like. Most base wines are nice enough, but it would be like licking on a lemon, these wines are highly acidic, and not normally well balanced at that point.
The next step is to bottle the wine, with yeast and basic rock sugar, which causes a second fermentation. The actual amount of the two added ingredients is a house secret. The wines are closed with a simple beer bottle cap. You will notice that ALL wines made in this manner have a lip around the top of the bottle, where the cap is attached to. Again, if the year is exceptional then the wine becomes vintage champagne and is aged for at least three years. If the vintage is normal then the bottle’s content is a blend of a few vintages and is aged for at least one and a half years.
All the while during this second fermentation process, the wine is aged and the wine becomes more complex from the yeast. The yeast breaks down as it eats the rock sugar, adding the effervescence, and while the yeast breaks down, it adds a lovely mouthfeel and rich complexity. This process is known as autolysis, releasing molecules that are slowly transformed as they interact with those in the wine.
The process is a dual transformational process. First, the yeasts are broken down, but if that occurred in a 100% hermetically sealed environment, we would have SERIOUS issues, like HS (Hydrogen Sulfide) and mercaptan (think nasty rotten eggs). Oxygen is a two-edged sword, with too much a wine oxidizes, and with too little, you get HS and nasty foul egg smell. So, the cap that covers the Champagne bottles as they rest for 18 months to 3 years in these cool racks, actually allow for a certain amount of oxygen to flow through, the caps are not hermetic seals. The special stoppers, AKA caps, allow the wine to mature on the lees, with a very slow feed of oxygen coming through, thereby allowing the wine to mature at a rate that is best for it. You can mature them quicker, with a different cap, but you would lose the value of a wine sitting long on the lees.
According to Wikipedia, the effects of autolysis on wine contribute to a creamy mouthfeel that may make a wine seem to have a fuller body. The release of enzymes inhibits oxidation which improves some of the aging potentials of the wine. The mannoproteins improve the overall stability of the proteins in the wine by reducing the number of tartrates that are precipitated out. They may also bind with the tannins in the wine to reduce the perception of bitterness or astringency in the wine. The increased production of amino acids leads to the development of several flavors associated with premium Champagne including aromas of biscuits or bread dough, nuttiness, and acacia. As the wine ages further, more complex notes may develop from the effects of autolysis.
Finally, it is at this stage, after the bottles have matured their proper time, based upon their label (blend or Vintage), we get to the final stage of Champagne, remuage (or “riddling” in English) and Dosage. To get rid of the lees (the dead yeast cells and other particulates), the bottles are hand or machine manipulated to convince the lees to move towards the cap. Then the neck of the bottle is frozen, and the cap is removed, the lees come flying out in a frozen format, and then the bottle is recapped with the famous champagne cork, but not before it is dosed with more sugar. This very last step is the reason for this post, but let’s leave that till further down in the post, for now, let’s talk varietals and color/style.
Color/style and Varietals
So, we have covered the how part of Champagne (well almost more on Dosage below), and now we need to talk color and grapes. The base grapes for Champagne are Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. There are very few houses that also use Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot blanc, Pinot Gris. Champagne, like the rest of France’s wine industry, is controlled by the AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée).
So, for Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay, which is white from white, Chardonnay is the only grape allowed. Meaning, that the juice from Chardonnay is 100% of a BdB Champagne, or in rare occasions from Pinot blanc (such as La Bolorée from Cedric Bouchard).
For Blanc de Noirs, the Champagne is made from either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or a blend of the two. Finally, for Rose Champagne, it can be a blend of the three grapes.
This has been all the rave recently, LD or Late Disgorgement. All this means is that the house or winery (outside of Champagne) kept the bottles capped for a longer time. So the 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs was sold in 2014 or so. It is a lovely wine and recently Yarden released a 2007 LD Yarden Blanc de Blancs. It is the same wine, just held longer in capped format (another 4 years or so), and then recently they disgorged the wine, more on that below, and put in the dosage and the Champagne style cork and released it now. Essentially, for all intent and purpose, Yarden aged the Sparkling wine 4 more years and released it later on. The interesting thing will be to taste the two wines (the LD and normal 2007 Yarden BdB and see how 4 extra years of lying on lees helped/hindered/or did nothing). I will be doing that soon enough.Read the rest of this entry
When I last left off on the story of my trip to Israel and Europe, I had just ended an epic tasting of the new 2016 wines from Royal Wines. I then jumped on a train and came to Strasbourg for a tasting of Alsace wines and other wines that are not made by Royal. It included some new 2016 and 2017 wines but it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintage.
Last year we made a run for Von Hovel, and I wanted to do that again this year, and maybe even Nik Weis. Sadly, they told me there were no new wines for 2017 or 2018. 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 2019.
After last year’s epic tasting with Nathan Grandjean, I had tasted all of the 2014 French wines that I know of. The 2015 wines are slowly being released, from producers other than Royal. Kosher Wine International, the producers for all the Magrez wines, has now just released the 2015 wines. Rose Camille is slowly releasing the 2014 wines now. Bokobsa has released many of the 2016 wines, along with Taieb, though Taieb has not officially released the 2016 Pommard from Lescure yet.
I have yet to taste the new 2016 Lescure Pommard. I have a couple of bottles and will post soon. I have also not yet tasted the 2015 Pape Clement, I have a few bottles to get to soon. I have not yet tasted the 2015 Haut Condissas, but that is not in the USA yet, or if it is, it is not for sale as Royal still has the 2014 vintage to sell. I have tasted all of the Magrez wines, other than the Pape, and I will post those on a subsequent post (buzz killer – they are not that great). Nathan and I did taste two of them, and yeah, they are OK, nothing great. They are far too ripe for me to be happy. I would stick with Royal’s options any day before them.
If you are interested in these wines, they are mostly wines that are here or will be here eventually. If you cannot find them or do not want to wait, Nathan Grandjean has them for sale on his website: www.yavine.fr (I DO NOT work for wine stores, never have and never will. I get no kickback or payment for this). I state this here only as information. It also seems that kosherwine.com will hopefully have some of these as well.
We tasting these wines twice, once in the evening and once more the next day. This did help some of the wines to open, but most of the wines were either unchanged or some were worse off. I posted here scores from Koenig wines and from Giersberger, as we had visited them both earlier in the day and took some of the wines with us to taste again, the notes here are the best of those wines.
My many thanks to Nathan, and his family (for putting up with us). The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
Bordeaux whites and one Swiss White
Let me make this 100% clear if the notes are not obvious enough. The 2015 Magrez Fombrauge Blanc, is a HUGE letdown. The 2014 vintage is a home run, in comparison. The clear overall winner here is the Barrail white – like WOW, crazy wine for the price, sadly it is still only available in France, come on Kosherwine.com, get moving already!
2015 Chateau du Grand Barrail, White – Score: 91 (Crazy QPR)
The nose on this wine shows smoke, flint, with lovely dry fruit, showing rich honeysuckle, white flowers, with honeyed apples, and lovely Asian pears. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows riper fruit than the nose, showing more sweet fruit, with sweet melon, with a richer mouthfeel than I would expect, with rich acidity that shows a bit further in the mouth, with intense honeydew, melon, and lovely grapefruit, and Meyer lemon. The finish is long, truly searing with acid, and rich with more honeyed fruit, and lovely citrus fruit. Bravo! Drink now till 2023. (This is sadly only available in France)