A friend brought this bottle over at the weekend. I was intrigued and, once we tasted it, really impressed. I have not got much experience of Israeli wines but know that they have been picking up international plaudits and awards, including the Decanter best Red Rhone varietal over £10 awarded to Carmel winery from upper Galilee (trumping Guigal et al at their own game).
This bottle, from Galil Mountain Winery, which is also in Upper Galilee, is a blend of 69% Viognier and 31% Chardonnay called Avivim. The bottle describes the area as “a wild mountainous region of forested slopes, gorges, stony ridges and running streams” no doubt appealing to terroiristes with air miles to use. The winery is linked to a Kibbutz so maybe a good one to volunteer for on a gap year.
I find most Viognier over-perfumed, one dimensional and gag inducing, so was intrigued by the potentially moderating influence of the Chardonnay. This was balanced but still retained enough ‘tropicality’ to appeal to Viognier fans with peach, papaya and ‘blah blah blah’ (insert favourite tropical fruit from usual list, melon maybe) with a not unpleasant spicy tang. I have tasted lots of Condrieu at twice the price which was less enjoyable (in my own unique taste world I am never wrong). I don’t give points but this is technically sound, interesting and drinkable stuff.
I was surprised to see it was 15% abv as it did not strike me as overly alcoholic (in tune with good Rhones). Fermented on its lees, 9 months in French oak, a weighty bottle and talk of terroir signals intent. It had a $20.90 price tag, which I guess equates to around £15, and a suggested storage/drinking window from 2010 to 2013. It also states ‘Kosher for Passover’ on the back. I think the stereotype of boiled up Kosher wines is still quite strong and the politics of the region unhelpful to Marketing types. This could be seen as a good recipe for value for money but perhaps the conscientious would feel it also appropriate to make a donation to a worthy cause in the region…
I am constantly reflecting on my ability (inability!) to discriminate between wines at the moment. I am reading lots of research that seems to undermine the accuracy and consistency of human tasters as well as more confessional and critical wine writers who acknowledge these limitations (Gluck et al). I am also mindful of the restrictions of language and the work of Lehrer, Bourdieu etc. illustrating that the purple prose of critics is often more about individual taste, context, power relationships and subjective experience as it is about anything intrinsic to the wine.
I went to an interesting tasting mid-week arranged by Genesis wines. I had not really heard of them until recently but I was going to be speaking in central London nearby so had a ‘window of opportunity’. Once I made it past the imposing and heavy door of Chandos House and met up with some friends I set about tasting some of the Rhone 2008 En Primeur offers including a trio of Condrieu from Francois Villard and a host of barrel sample reds. Interestingly Villard was a chef before he began making wine and is still involved in the restaurant business. I do believe wine is often at its best when symbiotically and sympathetically interacting with food and wonder if someone who cooks is bound to be attuned to the potential of this. It also highlights how tasting early samples is distanced from the ultimate destination of drinking a mature wine with food.
Parker’s effusive reviews of the 2007s has clearly pulled the carpet out from under the 2008s. The euro exchange and the recent drop in the Liv-ex also make many things a ‘hard sell’ at the moment. My impression was that the reds were generally sound despite the weather and will provide some enjoyable, if not particularly exciting, drinking for selective buyers but the market demands the ‘best’ and money will be drawn towards 2007s. It is also so hard to ‘fortune tell’ when tasting barrel samples and I have a very limited threshold for tasting them. After half a dozen of the reds I find my palate overwhelmed, in this case with tannins, coffee and cassis flavours. I find it hard to recall wines even with my notes and wonder at the abilities of those who drink 150 over a short period.
I am not a huge fan of Voignier but I think this is mainly due to the quality of wines I was first exposed to. I also have a lot of respect for friends who rate the grape highly and clearly there is a top-end market for them. I think this is a grape I will learn to appreciate more, and even at an immature stage, the wines from Villard were interesting and enjoyable. I had the sense of what they might become and look forward to trying them in future at their prime. The pick for me, possibly because I enjoy acidity, was the ‘cheapest’ of the three (Les Terrasses du Plat) although the most expensive (De Poncins) seemed to have potential to age well and will probably mature beautifully.