Archive for March, 2009

“Mevushal” or Flash pasteurized wine

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Working with Israeli wines, most of them kosher certified, I often hear the question; “what makes a wine kosher?”.

Without getting into too many of the details, I explain that it can not contain an ingredient (gelatin or isinglass) sometimes used in the fining (removing particles) of wine.  And it must be made (actually handled) by a sabbath observant Jew.

Another question that inevitably arises relates to a process known as “mevushal” or flash pasteurized.  This is a process whereby the wine (or often the juice pre- fermentation) is quickly brought up in temperature to around 180 degrees F and then (usually) quickly cooled.

http://wine.appellationamerica.com/images/appellations/features/boiling-wine-170.jpg

Wines that have gone through this process can be handled by Jew & Gentile alike and still maintain their kosher status, whereas non-mevushal wines can not be handled by non-Jews lest they risk losing their status as kosher.  I find this practice to be highly offensive and will refrain from further comment.  Amongst the reasons for said practice dates back to pagan rituals/libations done over wine, but only wine that had NOT been boiled.  As such the rabbi’s decreed that all kosher wine be boiled so that Jews would not use pagan wine for their own sacramental purposes.

Many of the better kosher wines today do NOT undergo this flash pasteurization for fear of damaging the wine.  And many wine critics believe that the heating of the wine leads to cooked fruit flavors (rather than fresh fruit flavors) and also prevents the wine from aging gracefully as many “mevushal” wines tend to deteriorate within a few years of their vintage date.

I bring this up as I learned something new about flash pasteurized wine today.  I found an article written by Bill Zacharkiw in The Montreal Gazette whereby Zacharkiw states “The first time I came across the technique of “flash pasteurization” was when I talked with Tomas Perrin of Château Beaucastel, whose Châteauneuf-du-Pape … (is) considered by many … as … the world’s best.

Beaucastel wines undergo a heating process similar to mevushal wines.

Perrin…believes that by quickly heating and then cooling the grapes, the delicate flavors and aromas are more easily extracted from the grape skins, without all the astringent tannins. Also, this type of pasteurization helps protect the wine from premature oxidation, which means fewer sulphites need to be used.”

Interesting huh?

Happy (dare I say) mevushal wine tasting!

WTG

Passover wines article

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

My first article about Passover wine recommendations has been posted.  I wrote this article for the Jewish Press and it focuses on blends, or wines made from more than 1 varietal.  You can go to the article here.

I will write my annual Pessach/Passover wine recommendations piece this week.  Stay tuned…

Happy pre-Passover wine tasting (while you clean)…

WTG

Polaner Selections’ 2009 annual portfolio tasting

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Wow, could this year’s Polaner tasting really have been my 3rd?  It is a large and diverse tasting and a portfolio with some real winner wines.

In previous years I recall tasting lots of big tooth staining wines.  This year’s tasting comes at a busy time as I have been occupied with Passover wine stuff  so I was only able to stop in for about an hour.  I wish I had all week!  So many wines to taste, analyze & ponder.  Alas, it was one of the better hours spent in a long while.

I began by tasting through a bunch of whites and I then moved on to some reds.  Choosing to focus more on old world wines this year I spent a great deal of time tasting Italian wines, though I did start with some real nice French whites, and finished with some well known and very unique Spanish wines.

There were a few standout wines I’d like to write about tonight.  Beginning with the Foradori Myrto IGT Vigneti delle Dolomiti Bianco 2007 (pic is of 2006).

http://www.winelegend.com/Product/06886_big.jpg

The wine, made from 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Incrocio Manzoni (yes, that is apparently a grape varietal) started off a bit unusual as I thought its color was a bit deep for such a young wine.  Rather than the light straw color I saw a lot of this wine seemed to have hints of gold.  The nose was floral, but once again, not a floral I was accustomed to smelling.  I could not quite put a finger on the specific, but the floral notes, combined with a spicy, white pepper & herb thing led to a crisp wine with a medium finish.

Next was another white, made from 100% Prie’ Blanc (“pree” is the hebrew word for fruit) by the Cave de Morgex et de la Salle winery in Valle d’Aoste, Italy.

http://www.caveduvinblanc.com/Immagini/Vini/Bottiglie/Vini_estremi.gif

The 2008 Vini Estremi was so light in color it was almost clear.  Made with indigenous yeasts, it had a sweet, floral and bubble gum nose that was scrumptious.  There was a bit of fizziness to the wine that was crisp and finished nice and long for a wine its style.

From Sicily, Italy I tried some of the wines of Calabretta.

http://www.velier.it/Catalogo/Images/LOG-622714826.jpg

I tried their white Carricante Sicilia 2005 which was oily, floral and nice.  But it was their reds that I found most interesting.  I tried both the 1999 & 2000 Etna Rosso.  Each wine was a light, clear brick color.  Apparently these wines are aged for 6-7 YEARS in large botti (basically traditional Italian barrels).  While the botti do not impart big oak flavors they clearly do something.  The wines had a unique yet admittedly appealing oxidized/medicinal quality to them.  They were almost Sherry like.  Quite unusual but I did enjoy.

My favorites of the day were the wines of Roagna from Piedmont Italy.  I tried 2 Barbarescos and 2 Barolos.  The 1999 Barbaresco Crichet Paje’ had soft red fruit and cola characteristics packaged in a wine so beautifully round, with its acid and tannins that it was the only wine I could not bring myself to spit.

http://wl-huge-sale.s3.amazonaws.com/huge-sale-2008_files/36018.jpg

BUT, it was actually the 2004 Barolo Vigna Rionda that blew me away.  Where to begin with this wine.  Still a baby, this wine was clear light ruby-garnet and had the most unusual aromas.  Yes, there were lovely (yet restrained) ripe black cherry aromas.  But the aroma that blew me away was what I can best describe as grilled veggies.  It kind of had a charred-fresh-sweet-herbaceous thing going on.  WOW!  On the palate was smoke & black fruit brought together beautifully by soft ripe tannins, classic Italian acidity and a very long finish.  My birthday is just over 4 months away.  Start saving up FRIENDS… ;)

My last major stop was at the Lopez de Heredia table.  This Rioja, Spain producer perplexes me in many ways.  I’ve tried (and written about) their wines a few times before.   I tried a white, the 1989 Tondonia Blanco Reserva that was interesting – crisp yet oxidized (intentionally).  A rose, the 1998 Tondoni Rosado Gran Reserva that was a pink-orange color & showed a touch of oxidation.  And I tried 5 reds, the youngest a pre-release of the 2003 Cubillo Crianza and the oldest the 1985 Tondonia Gran Reserva.

http://www.thewinecountry.com/mm5/graphics/00000001/0000000059572.jpg

Of the 5 I actually only found one to show that traditional Heredia oxidation…and it was NOT the ’85.  It was the ’91 Tondonia Gran Reserva.  Interestingly enough, my favorite was the ’85 (picture above).  It was brick in color with browning edges.  NO OXIDIZED aromas (or maybe I was simply palate fatigued).  I got tar, leather and burnt tobacco.  But what impressed me most and the reason I really enjoyed this wine was its remarkable liveliness.  It was light, yet bright & crisp.  NOT what i was expecting.  GREAT!

All that and I was only there for about an hour.  OK, maybe it was an hour and a half.  What a treat.  The tasting was just over 48 hours ago and already I can not wait until next year!

Happy POLANER WINES wine tasting!

WTG

Wine Sales are down – Israeli wine too

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Globes, “Israel’s Business Arena” reports that Passover wine sales are expected to drop.

http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/951/35017417.JPG

It is reporting on wine sales in Israel, but I have heard that sales here (In NY at least) have been soft so far.  I have heard/seen/read reports that as much as 50% (or more) of annual kosher wine sales occurs in the weeks leading up to Passover.  And with the economic conditions as they are, it appears that wine sales are suffering.

I must confess that the Israeli wines I have been pouring for store owners has been very well received.  But the customers still need to come in and buy the bottles.

So my post today is a plea.  No matter your race, religion, color, etc (ok , age does matter, please be over 21) go out in the next two weeks to your local wine shop and buy a bottle of israeli wine to commemorate Passover (the first Seder is on April 8th).  There is some really good stuff coming out of Israel these days (my Passover recommendations are coming soon), and while it isn’t cheap, the better wines are damn good and actually pretty darned good values.

Happy Passover time Israeli wine tasting!

WTG

pre-Passover wine tastings

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

So the blog header is NEW!  What do you think?  I have been encouraged to further tweak it, but I kinda like it…

I want to write REAL QUICKLY today about the madness that has become pre-Passover wine shopping.  It is said that over 50% of kosher wines consumed throughout the entire year is purchased in the 2-3 weeks leading up to Passover.  What wines should you drink this holiday?

http://www.israeli-wine.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/8-katzrin_rw1-246x300.jpg

Yeah, of course it would be nice if we could all drink Katzrin.  Sadly the $150 Katzrin Red, a Bordeux style blend, is out of the price range for most of us.

I WILL be putting together my Wines for Passover post within the next few days (to supplement an article I recently wrote for a paper about Passover wines).  But what I want to write about tonight is something I feel strongly that more of YOU should be doing.  You should be attending one of  the amazing FREE or VERY reasonable priced wine tastings taking place this month.  I have already poured wine at several such events and my schedule for the next 2 weeks (leading up to the first seder) is NUTS.  I have a different tasting throughout NYC (and Brooklyn) nearly EVERY NIGHT.

PLEEEASE, feel free to send me a note and ask about a tasting in your area.  I’ll be happy to tell you about one I’ll be pouring at or direct you to another I may be aware of.

I state this so emphatically as; the best way to BUY wine is to first TRY wine.

I can tell you about wines that I like but you may not like the same wines.

Again, for those of you who are OH SO BUSY and can not attend a FUN and educational event, I will be writing a post with some suggestions.  But for the rest of you, GO ATTEND a pre-Passover wine tasting.  You will have fun and learn something too.  And the best part, is that you will be assured to find a wine that you will enjoy at your Passover seder.

Happy pre-Passover Wine Tasting!

WTG

Headaches from Red wine

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

This is a topic I have covered before but just saw some interesting and cool news that I felt compelled to share.

As reported by Wine & Spirits Daily (with a more comprehensive article form the SF Gate here);

UV RAYS COULD ZAP HEADACHES OUT OF WINE

Researchers in South Africa are testing technology that uses ultraviolet rays to zap unwanted microbes and yeasts in wine, which would reduce the need to add sulfites that make some people feel bad. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that only a small percentage of people suffer a true allergic reaction, but it is still a concern for many drinkers.

The interesting news here is that if this technology proves to work (I admit skepticism) wineries will not have to add as much or possibly even ANY sulfites to wine to prevent oxidation.

In addition to the cool technology I find it of interest that the author feels the need to clarify (something I have previously written about) that the number of people who are actually allergic to sulfites is “a small percentage”. Which is not to say that they are not suffering from headaches caused by red wine.  Simply that it is not (as they often suspect) the sulfites that are causing the headache.  It is likely one of the hundreds (if not thousands) of compounds in wine that the person may be allergic to that is causing the headache.

http://www.cheapfunwines.com/archives/pictures/wine-headache-thumb.jpg

On an unrelated note please look out for a new blog header (the fuzzy one on top just ain’t too flattering), my wines for Passover post and some other exciting new additions to the Wine Tasting Guy site in the not too distant future.

But for now…

Happy headache-less Wine Tasting!

WTG

Israeli…I mean Burgundy tasting report

Monday, March 16th, 2009

With Passover right around the corner (just over 3 weeks and counting) this is my busy season.  I have been attending, leading, writing about and  dreaming Israeli wine tastings.  I do LOVE the stuff, but I suspect that I may deviate just a tad from the typically exclusive Israeli wines at my seder this year.

I must admit however that I did take a very welcome break from Israeli wines last week to attend another in a series of Burgundy tastings with my wine tasting group.  Led by our fearless leader Jeremy, and his MUCH BETTER HALF (Thanks for the pics!), we tasted through some selections from the Vougeot & Echezeaux regions of Burgundy.  The quality of the vineyards in these regions are considered to be amongst the best with a great majority being classified as Grand Cru or Premier Cru.

Located in the Cote de Nuits, these wines are certainly world class and Jeremy put together a masterful selection of seven wines for this tasting.  This tasting also included brief overviews of each of the wines by individual club members who each researched a wine prior to the tasting.

http://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&ik=afacdaee06&view=att&th=1200f69604a3da12&attid=0.3&disp=inline&realattid=f_fsd67wj02&zw

I found the wines common trait to be their minerality/flintiness, but otherwise they were each unique, elegant and certainly thought provoking.

We started with the 2004 Domaine Bertagna VOUGEOT  “Clos de La Perriere” 1er Cru which was my least favorite.  Others loved this wine, yet I found it to be a bit generic.  Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, just not special (to me at least).  The clear light ruby wine with pink inflections at the rim had a subtle nose of slate/stone leading to mild red berries.  On the palate the fruit was subtle (I suppose some might say elegant) with nice minerality, a touch of heat and a medium length finish.

The 1999 Domaine Francois Legros VOUGEOT “Les Crais” was clear ruby with signs of bricking at the rim.  HERE were those funky earthy/vegetal aromas that led to aromas of cherry pie.  This was a soft & velvety wine with red fruit, a touch of heat, and a medium to long finish.

The 2002 Vincent Girardin, Clos de Vougeot GRAND CRU was clear ruby with pink & orange inflections at the rim.  This wine was not shy and had a LOT going on.  A collection of aromas from earth & stone to mint & baked red fruit.  On the palate were big red fruit that danced in the back of my palate.  This very soft and clean wine finished smooth and long.

The 1988 Clos de Vougeot, Domaine Jean Grivot GRAND CRU was a clear garnet with bricking at the rim.  It had that distinct aged Burgundy “pukey” smell.  A hint of rubbery aroma led to muddy earth & mulchy aromas.  While this may turn some people off, I find it to be fascinating (Burgundy bias anyone?).  On the palate was an amazing bracing acidity & baked cherry pie flavors with a long finish.

Moving from Vougoet to Echezeaux, the 5th wine of the night was the 1999 Domaine Laurent (negociant) Echezeaux GRAND CRU.  This clear ruby colored wine faded to garnet towards the rim and appeared to be almost clear AT the rim.  Initial hits of char & smoke led to an array of aromas from vegetal earth, to ripe baked fruit as well as flinty minerality and a bit of burnt rubber (surprising since it is reported that the winemaker prefers CO2 to SO2 which is what usually gives off the rubbery smell).  This fresh and mouth coating wine had great acidity and a lovely minerality with a nice long finish.

The 1991 Camille Giroud Echezeaux GRAND VIN was clear garnet with bricking taking place at the rim.  While smelling this wine I had a bit of a wine aroma epiphany.  That familiar “pukey” smell I have mentioned on several occasions when referring to Burgundy is quite similar (to me) to canned tomatoes which I think is a much less offensive (to some) descriptor.  Look out for this modified aroma descriptor in the future.  SO, aromas of canned tomato and earth led to a wine that was soft and elegant with a bright acidity and pretty red fruit.  It was lively and round and had a long finish.

The last wine of the night was the 1988 Mongeard-Mugneret Echezeaux GRAND CRU.  This cloudy (lots of big & small sediment floating around) brown/brick-orange wine had aromas of canned tomato, minerality and cooked vegetables.  On the palate it had a bracing acidity, lovely minerality, and (unbelievably at this point considering its appearance) ripe cherry flavors.  It was lively yet soft and elegant and had a long finish.

Happy Pre-Passover BURGUNDY tasting!

WTG

hodgepodge of wine stuff

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Following yesterdays rant about overly extracted/  high alcohol wines, I see that the NY Times is listening (no, I am nowhere near that egocentric).  In Wednesdays edition of Eric Asimov’s “The Pour”, Asimov talks about a California Pinot Noir producer who  “renounced the fruit-bomb style in favor of wines that emphasize freshness and delicacy”.  The winemaker stated “It got to the point where I didn’t want the wine to be fatter than the food”.

Asimov goes on to talk about a predominant style of wines that are “ripe & extravagant” and approaching 15% alcohol (MUCH higher than the one time traditional 11-12%) and goes on to talk about how he “was thrilled to find a small but growing number of producers pulling in the opposite direction…Instead of power, they strive for finesse. Instead of a rich, mouth-coating impression of sweetness, they seek a dry vitality meant to whet the appetite rather than squelch it.”

Well put Mr. Asimov.

Continuing with the hodgepodge, I read a quickie peice in the USA Today about young adults holding their liquor (or wine) better than their older counterparts.   Entitled, “Can older adults hold their alcohol?”, apparently “The older adults performed more poorly than the younger group”.  Well kids, looks like you need to start giving your parents a curfew and THE LECTURE on responsible drinking.

http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/mgt/lowres/mgtn170l.jpg

Finally, I attended a rather large kosher wine (and food) event a few weeks ago and wrote about it for The Jewish Press – “America’s Largest Independent Jewish Weekly”. The article has now been posted online and can be found here.

I attended another of my wine tasting group’s Burgundy tastings tonight and will write about it as soon as I have the chance.  Stay tuned, and…

Happy delicate, youthful, kosher wine tasting!

WTG

Parkerization??

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

In between meetings, phone calls and several attempts at celebrating Purim today, I stopped by the “Today’s Bordeaux” wine tasting this afternoon down in Tribeca.  It was a real nice tasting with lots of Bordeaux offerings, including about 15 whites (white Bordeaux is generally a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and sometimes Muscadelle), 100 reds and even 2 or 3 Sauternes (dessert).

Of the 100 or so reds were many from the now famed 2005 vintage, and several were from other vintages such as 2003, 2004 & 2006.  An interesting part of the tasting was the early pre-release tastings of the 2008′s.  This was a real treat and provided insight into how the wines will be once they are officially released.

But rather than writing about any specific standout wines (and there certainly were some) I want to write about an observation.  I found many of the reds to be pretty big/fat/extracted … whatever you want to call it.  Now they were by no means Australian inky big.  Or Argentinian/Chilean big.  But they were big.

Which leads to the title of this blog.  Fellow writer, blogger & NY-er Alice Feiring recently wrote a book “The Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization“.

http://alicefeiring.com/alicecover.jpg

In a nutshell, Feiring writes about how Robert Parker and other critics favor wines made in this big, often high alcohol, extracted style.  I am all for people drinking whatever style of wine they like, yet as my palate evolves  I am beginning to tend to appreciate a leaner, lower alcohol wine that some will say better pairs with foods.  And Feiring points out in her book a (scary) trend wherein producers are making wines that will attain high scores – more often those that fit the profile of the big, extracted, high alcohol wines.  So what of the smaller, lower alcohol & generally more food friendly wines?

Today’s tasting, although thoroughly enjoyed by yours truly, might be further proof that EVEN BORDEAUX producers are falling victim to the lure of high scores and making wines that they believe will attain high scores from the aforementioned critics.

This is certainly not bad news for everyone, and frankly may be good news for many.  But for those whose preference is natural, lower alcohol wines, this may indeed be further indication that Feiring is on to something.

Happy BIG/small Bordeaux wine tasting!

WTG

Italian wine +

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Late last week had me exploring the wine region of the world that I am least comfortable with.  Italian wines.  Italy has over 2,000 indigenous varietals and just about any time I attend an Italian wine tasting I am exposed to a new varietal.

So this past Thursday, between an appointment on the upper West Side and several appointments in Brooklyn I stopped by the Sub-Zero Showroom in midtown Manhattan for an intimate unveiling of the Banfi 2005 Belnero.  I was quite pleased to be invited and felt badly that I was not able to stay for the entire event.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_gGSAnuq4qas/SbFlETKPqRI/AAAAAAAAAHI/k5wyVLqvEH0/s400/Belnero+label.JPG

A blend primarily consisting of Sangiovese, blended with a little Cabernet and Merlot, the clear ruby wine was quite nice.  On the nose, an initial hit of Eucalyptus, followed by toasty oak and then both raspberry and black cherry, the wine had nice fruit on the palate, well integrated tannins and a long finish.

But more than the wine, I was intrigued by two other things I learned at this event.  The first was the statement that the Belnero was “nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites”.  I have heard of Nitrogen being inserted into the headspace of  wine bottle immediately preceding the wine being bottled (to remove oxygen which could lead to premature oxidation), but I had not heard that it can help to minimize the use of sulfites.  Interesting…

The other interesting tidbit shared with regards to the winemaking was that of the vessel used to age the wine.  The winery has apparently been working for several years on a hybrid (patented) wood/stainless steel vessel.  The way I understood it this vessel is actually a stainless steel tank with slots that fit oak staves.  While the use of oak staves in stainless steel tanks is not anything new, apparently the Banfi people feel they have something special here.  And judging by the wine, it seems that they do…

The other event I dropped by last week was the Tre Bicchieri (Gambo Rosso) tasting.

http://morrellwine.com/images/products/medium/3GLASSESNY09.jpg

Long time readers may remember my less than stellar experience with this event last year.  I considered passing on the event given my experience from last year but I’m happy I attended, even if it was for only about 45 minutes.

With the guidance of good friend Fred, I was able to quickly try 12 wines.  The Vietti Lazzarito 2004 Barolo was lite with chunky tannins and a pretty funky label.  I was told this wine needs 20 years (yeah, I’ll be waiting for this one) to show its full potential.  The Lis Neris 2006 Sauvignon Picol (made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc) had a gorgeous floral and grapefruit nose, but was surprisingly (to me for an Italian wine) low on acid – though this could have something to do with my New Zealand association with Sauvignon Blanc (generally quite acidic).

The Castello Monaci 2006 Artas, made from 85% Primitovo (a close relative of Zinfandel) and 15% Negroemaro (1 of the 2000+ Italian varietals) had an interesting leather and dried fruit nose (similar to zinfandel), but was different from Zinfandel in that it was lite, food friendly, had a nice acidity to it and a long finish.

And finally, possibly the most exciting wine of the tasting for me was the Nino Negri 2005 Valtellina Sfursat.  You may remember my writing about a Sfursat following the Brunello tasting a few weeks ago.  Though the nose on this Sfursat was not reminiscent of the last one I tried (it was actually rather tight and pretty closed) it was the mouth feel of this wine that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was velvety and mouth coating yet was not over the top and extracted.  It had a great balancing acidity, clearly a terrific food wine.  And had a very long finish.  Nice…

Happy Italian wine tasting…

WTG