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Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Six WINNERS – October 2021

To start – I really must state something in advance. I am sorry that I missed the chance to properly remember the 10th Yahrzeit of Daniel Rogov’s passing, which occurred on September 7th, 2011 (it may have been the 6th but Israel time and all).

I wrote two of my posts about the man, you can read them here and as such, I will simply say that I miss him as do most of the kosher wine drinking public. So much has changed in the past 10 years, since his passing, and I wonder what kosher wine would be like today if he was still with us. So much of the world is open to the kosher wine world, which was not the case 10 years ago. I wonder if Rogov would have embraced the opening. I wonder if he would have liked or disliked the fact that Israel is producing and importing loads of kosher wine from France and Italy, specially made for the Israeli kosher wine buying community.

I think, in the end, he would have loved all that is changing and we are all worse off by his lack of presence in our lives today. So I raised a glass of 2011 Yarden Blanc de Blanc in his memory and may we all be blessed for having known such a man!

QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines

It has been a few months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wine I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.

Thankfully, no matter how garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes superstars like Herzog Wines’s new 2019 Herzog Eagle’ Landing Pinot Noir, and a few others. It goes to show that when wineries reasonably price superior wines, even 46 dollar wines can be a QPR winner! Sadly, the Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir is the most superior wine on this list. There are other nice wines to come but for now – this QPR wine list, overall, was not as good as previous lists.

We have an OK list of QPR WINNERS:

  1. 2019 Herzog Eagle’ Landing Pinot Noir
  2. 2017 Netofa Dor
  3. 2019 Chateau Genlaire Grand Vin de Bordeaux
  4. 2019 Elvi Vina Encina Blanco
  5. 2019 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection
  6. 2020 Domaine Guillerault Fargette Sancerre

There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:

  1. 2020 Domaine Joost de Villebois Pouilly Fume
  2. 2019 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin
  3. 2019 Nana Chenin Blanc
  4. 2019 Nana Cassiopeia
  5. 2015 Mad Aleph Blaufrankisch
  6. 2019 Aura di Valerie Zaffiro Super Tuscan
  7. 2020 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red
  8. 2020 Domaine du Castel La Vie Blanc de Castel
  9. 2019 Herzog Malbec, Lineage, Clarksburg – GREAT Value for a varietal I am not a huge fan of
  10. 2020 Herzog Variations Be-leaf
  11. 2018 Binyamina Sapphire, The Chosen
  12. 2020 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc
  13. 2020 Bodegas Faustino VI Rioja
  14. 2020 Yatir Darom Rose
  15. 2020 Recanati Marselan Rose
  16. 2020 Arroyo del Imperio Chardonnay

There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:

  1. 2020 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Acacia Barrel Series – very unique but expensive
  2. N.V. Herzog Methode Champenoise, Special Reserve – Nice but expensive
  3. 2020 Herzog Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, Special Edition – Nice but expensive
  4. 2019 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico – very unique but expensive
  5. 2020 Matar Chardonnay
  6. 2019 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera – Still too ripe for me
  7. 2019 Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select
  8. 2020 Psagot Sinai, White
  9. N.V. Drappier Rose de Saignee, Champagne
  10. 2018 Les Lauriers de Rothschild
  11. 2020 Pacifica Rattlesnake Hills Viognier
  12. N.V. Vera Wang Party Prosecco, Brut
  13. 2019 Or Haganuz Elima
  14. 2019 Binyamina Chardonnay, Moshava

The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds, or total failures:

  1. 2018 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Lot 70 – Lovely wine but expensive for the quality
  2. 2019 Hagafen Family Vineyard Red Blend – Lovely wine but expensive for the quality
  3. 2020 Binyamina Moshava Rose
  4. 2019 Yatir Creek White
  5. 2019 Domaine du Castel La Vie, Rouge du Castel
  6. 2017 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild
  7. 2018 Domaine du Castel M du Castel
  8. 2020 Padre Bendicho Rose
  9. 2020 Carmel Private Collection Rose
  10. 2020 Yatir Darom White
  11. 2019 Nana Chardonnay
  12. 2019 Segal Marawi Native
  13. 2019 Mia Luce Blanc
  14. 2019 Nana Tethys
  15. 2018 Odem Mountain 1060 Cabernet Franc
  16. 2018 Odem Mountain 1060 Red Wine
  17. 2017 Odem Mountain Alfasi, Special Reserve
  18. 2019 Mia Luce Syrah and Stems
  19. 2019 Mia Luce C.S.M.
  20. 2017 Tabor Merlot, Adama
  21. 2017 Tabor Cabernet Sauvignon 1/11,000, Limited Edition
  22. 2019 Chateau de Parsac
  23. 2019 Gurra di Mare Tirsat
  24. 2017 Tulip Espero
  25. 2019 Psagot Merlot
  26. 2019 Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon
  27. 2018 Jezreel Icon
  28. 2019 Psagot Edom
  29. 2017 The Cave
  30. 2018 Carmel Mediterranean
  31. 2020 Yatir Mount Amasa Rose
  32. 2020 Flam Camellia
  33. 2020 Netofa Latour, White

Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):

The real WINNER here, from the entire list, is the lovely 2019 Herzog Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir, another STUNNING Pinot Noir from Herzog – BRAVO!

There were other high-scoring wines in this overall list, nice wines from Covenant and others, but the prices of those wines put them at a disadvantage in comparison to others in their wine categories, and as such, they have poor to bad QPR wine scores.

In the end, IMHO, the overall list has less quality than the previous QPR list but there are a few nice wines here indeed.

The other WINNERS were the incredible 2019 Elvi Vina Encina Blanco, a lovely Macabeo for 13 dollars! Just lovely! The 2019 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection, is not as good as previous vintages – but another solid wine that many will enjoy. Finally, we have a Sancerre that I can get up and cheer about and that is the 2020 Domaine Guillerault Fargette Sancerre. It is here in the USA and it is nice!

Other wines worth of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):

Of these GOOD to GREAT wines – the most interesting of the list, for me, is the 2020 Domaine Joost de Villebois Pouilly Fume. No, it is not as good as the lovely 2019 Jean Pierre Bailly Pouilly Fume, still, it is a Mevushal wine that is reasonably priced, so it gets a solid QPR score. The 2019 Nana Chenin Blanc is nice, but for the price, it is not worth it, and it is DRINK NOW!

The 2019 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin, is nice, yes, but it is too ripe for me and the price is too much for the quality it is, so yeah, nice wine for those that like this style. The 2019 Nana Cassiopeia, is a wine that I found I could taste and at a decent enough price, so yeah, good going.

The 2015 Mad Aleph Blaufrankisch has so many stories revolving around it, that all I can say is, drink it if you like the style. I found it OK, but I do not need to buy any more.

The 2019 Aura di Valerie Zaffiro Super Tuscan is nice enough, but really, why did you need to put those words on the bottle? A Super Tuscon is a term used to describe red wines from Tuscany that may include non-indigenous grapes, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The creation of super Tuscan wines resulted from the frustration winemakers had towards a slow bureaucracy in changing Italy’s wine law during the 1970s (from WineFolly). Why would you place those words on a wine bottle??

The 2019 Herzog Malbec, Lineage is a solid example of what reasonably priced wine from California can taste like! Finally, the newly released 2020 Herzog Variations Be-leaf – handily beats all other no-added sulfite options!

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The 2021 Kosher rose season is open and once again I am underwhelmed – scene 1

It is not yet summer and here in NorCal it feels like more like a wet winter, this year has started cold and has stayed cold throughout the country, other than in Arizona and Florida, AKA, baseball Spring Training! Normally, I would have been in Israel by now, one way or the other, and I would have also visited France, sadly, with the times we live in now, neither of those wonderful ideas is possible. Sad and strange days we live in. Also, this is scene 1, more roses are coming in, but we have seen a large number already, and yes, like last year, they are underwhelming, at BEST!

While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses slowed down a bit. This year it has returned to absolute insanity and sadly they are all expensive and boring, again, at best.

QPR and Price

I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.

While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has stayed the same from last year, so far though many expensive roses are not here yet! So far, it is around 22 bucks – that is NUTS! Worse, is that the prices are for online places like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com, with free or good shipping options and great pricing, definitely not retail pricing.

As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.

Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!

Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based upon price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 22 dollars – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.

Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.

Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is almost no Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would buy – no way! Now, I have not tasted the wines that many think are good in Israel, Vitkin, Oryah, and Recanati roses. In reality, there is NO QPR WINNER yet, of the 30+ roses I have tasted, not even close, sadly.

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Kosher Sparkling wines for the end of 2020 – WINNERS from Drappier and Yarden

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 Wikipediathe 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.

Late Disgorgement

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.

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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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