If you read my last post, you can guess that we wanted to waste no time getting out of that nutty hotel in Lyon. So we woke up at 5:30 and made our way to the train station by foot. The trip from Lyon to Roanne is just over 2 hours. With no coffee, I was suffering. When we got to Roanne, Yoni Taieb was waiting for us at the train station and drove us over to the Taieb offices. First coffee, then pray, then taste.
A few words about Taieb wines. The Taiebs hail from Algeria. The company was founded by Moise in the ’60’s. They began producing kosher wines upon their settling in France after the Algerian revolution. In the 1970’s, Moise’s son George (now the elder statesman of the company) joined his father, and they took over the distillery which produces the world renowned Anis Phenix, which is an Anisette, one of the family of Anise based liquors. The primary difference between Anisette and Arak is that Arak is dry while Anisette contains sugar. Truth is I had no idea that it was the same company. I have known about Phenix Anisette for a long time. My wife’s father is from Algeria where Phenix and the Taiebs originated, and we keep a bottle of Anistete (usually Phenix) in the house in case we have to entertain the family (I am not a fan of anisette – and I have tried…) Currently George’s son Yoni runs much of the day to day operations at Taieb, and it was he who spent the morning with us as the elder Mr. Taieb was called away due to a tragic death in the family.
Taieb produces a crazy number of wines. We tasted 27 wines on that day. These were wines that either David had preselected from their catalog or that Yoni felt would be interesting. It is just a small sample of currently available wines from their production. Their wines are found across France in supermarkets, liquor stores, and on the web. They are huge. Unfortunately, outside of France they are virtually unknown! American distribution and the complex web of how that works does not interest me. In Israel the distributor is called Yud Daled Asakim (י.ד. עסקים). They import a limited number of the Taieb wines. Unfortunately I didn’t know all of that going into this, or I would have asked if we could taste through all of the wines available in Israel – or at least the interesting ones. They import a total of 17 including two Champagnes. In the end, we tasted three– two nice (Joseph Mellot Sancerre and Chateau Castelbruck) and one not (Chateau La Naude). I will try to look for others and write up what I can in a separate post. I also want to take a look at pricing. I am hoping things aren’t horribly inflated. The problem is, even though these wines are being brought in now in an organized fashion, the distribution remains narrow. It basically ends up in stores that have French ownership (at least as far as I can tell). That’s a pity as that is a very select few indeed. But I will save that for another post.
This tasting was primarily divided into regions (after the whites) – and that is how my notes are divided.
2014 La Chene de Margot, Blanc, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux – This was a surprise. Yoni pulled this wine for us to taste not knowing that we had tasted this the night before [and retasted that very morning]. So here are my full notes. On the nose, you have great citrus mixed with nice fresh herbs. In the mouth, you get a HUGE punch of acid with tons of wonderful citrus. Really wonderful and enjoyable and affordable – that will be a recurring theme over the course of the day. Overall a great star. Based on the bottle we had the day before though, if you are lucky enough to be holding, drink up.
2017 Joseph Mellot, Pouilly Fume, Le Chant des Vignes – This wine has great citrus and clear orange blossom (I have two orange trees – sometimes, blossoms are generic, this one was straight orange blossom 100%). In the mouth, while I was expecting lemon, it was all orange and grapefruit. I really liked this wine, even though it is nowhere near as good as the ’18 Jean-Pierre Bailly (or even the ’17 for that matter) – it does cost about 10% less in Europe – but that’s not enough for me to choose this over those.
2018 Joseph Mellot, Sancerre, La Graveliere – WOW. This is a new release of the Mellot Sancerre. It is a huge improvement over the 2017 release and even kills the 2018 Domaine de Panquelaine, which while nice, really can’t compete with this. The nose here is pure Sancerre. Super floral, with orange blossom (again!) and honeysuckle with underlying mineral. In the mouth – WOW. Besides the citrus (mostly grapefruit), you get sweet baking spice, which then moves back into grapefruit before going to a lemony finish. For me this is absolute contender as successor to the 2012 Roger Moreux Chavignol. My only question is will it have the staying power (the ’07 lasted longer than the ’12 which is already on the decline) – in any event, in case you can’t tell, I loved this wine.
Beaujolais is an AOC wine region in France. The wine is made of the Gamay grape, and much in the same way that Burgundy automatically denotes Pinot Noir, so to with Beaujolais and Gamay. The wines we tasted were all the highest level of Beaujolais (Cru du Beaujolais), and all come from different sub regions. Note – this is NOT Beaujolais Nouveau – which is a VERY young expression of Gamay that is released soon after fermentation is finished. As it happens, we actually were tasting on Beaujolais day – which is the 3rd Thursday in November – the official earliest release date for Beaujolais Nouveau. But that stuff is really very gimmicky and is MUCH sweeter than these wines are. Having said that – Gamay tends to be fruity in all of its expressions – far more so than any other red varietal associated with a region in France. It is not for everyone (I am looking at you DR). I happen to like well-made expressions. Of the six we tasted, I liked three very much, one was OK and two weren’t for me. They sell for about 14 Euro in France – and as far as I know, NONE of them are available in Israel.
2016 M.G. Taeib, Reserve du Fondateur, Cru du Beaujolais, Cote de Brouilly – Beautiful sweet spice on the nose – especially cinnamon. Slight sweetness at the edge but overall balanced. Great tannin, OK acid. Blueberry, blackberry, and a nice leathery undertone. Tannin is firm and mouth coating – more than I expected. Nice indeed.
2017 M.G. Taeib, Reserve du Fondateur, Cru du Beaujolais, Morgon – Blueberry nose galore with black current and some brioche – almost creates a blueberry pie kinda feel. In the mouth it is redder – with tart red raspberry and that nice sweet spice. Tannin is slightly less than the preceding wine, but it has nice acidity – and is drier for sure. Another win.
2017 M.G. Taeib, Reserve du Fondateur, Cru du Beaujolais, Julienas – Very dark fruit on the nose, some menthol and jasmine. Very sweet and fruity up front. It has the acid to balance – but this one is too sweet for me. I would say though that it could be excellent gateway wine.
2017 M.G. Taeib, Reserve du Fondateur, Cru du Beaujolais, Fleurie – On the nose, sweet floral potpourri – in the mouth, pomegranate, and nice red fruit with some pith to bitter out the finish. There is a nice core here with excellent tannin and good acidity – and really nice finish that actually moves a little into green territory but finishes red (raspberry and cranberry) with the now typical sweet spice. Another winner for me.
2018 M.G. Taeib, Reserve du Fondateur, Cru du Beaujolais, Brouilly – Nose is closed but sweet and dark red. In the mouth, you have cranberry primarily. Nice tannin here. But the wine flattened out. The bottom half of the wine is just empty until the finish which has a nice sweet-smokiness. This one is the first hard pass for me.
2017 M.G. Taeib, Reserve du Fondateur, Cru du Beaujolais, Moulin A Vent – On the nose, sweet darker spice, blue fruit, maybe some dark red. In the mouth, crazy acid near sweet fruit – very similar in profile to the Fleurie – but with nice floral notes coming up on the finish. The acid here is kicking and that’s what makes it a win for me as it really balanced out the fruit.
For the most part, reds in from the Loire Valley (these included) are made of Cabernet Franc. These wines are made by winemaker Philippe Pain. Chinon and Bourgueil are controlled regions and they are geographically next door to each other – with only slight differences primarily in the soil – Bourgueil is sand over limestone, while Chinon is gravel over limestone – which impact the style of wine. I liked them both. They go for under 10 Euro in France – and again, are only available there as far as I know.
2017 La Petite Metairie, Chinon – Herbs, green fruit, and slightly red fruit on the nose. Mouth full of herbs (this would go REALLY well with a roasted herbed chicken). Below that you have a stripe of earth and minerality. The finish is herbal (of course) with a nice dose of red fruit. Medium body medium tannin and acid. Very accessible. A really nice every day red.
2017 La Petite Metairie, Bourgueil – Far fewer herbs on this one but still some nice green notes with more red fruit on the nose and something really floral – maybe violet. In the mouth, this medium bodied wine is primarily green with some nice tart red fruit as well as a hint of smoke. It has medium + tannin and a great acid core. The wine is lean and nice. Easy drinking for sure. Really excellent as far as I am concerned especially for the price – WHY ARE THESE WINES NOT BEING BROUGHT IN ANYWHERE?
Here we tasted a wide range of wines – from “small Bordeaux” (from the generic Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur wines to wines of the various Bordeaux sub-appellations. What became apparent is that 2018 has the potential to be AWESOME. If the “simple” wines were this great….
2018 Palais de L’Ombriere, Bordeaux – Black and red fruit and some herbs on the nose – In the mouth, this is a perfect everyday quaffer as they say – nothing too complex, but a great dark profile with some menthol, some herbs, and nice earth. Nice medium tannin and acid. Super easy drinking. And it’s about 9 Euro. Why can’t they sell THIS guy in my local supermarket?
2018 Haut de Grava, Bordeaux – Earthy nose, with blue and red fruit, followed by menthol. In the mouth, the wine is nice with tart red raspberry, some nice herbs, coating tannin, and a decent enough amount of acid. It’s a simple drink now wine – and while slightly behind the wine that preceded it, it’s a no-brainer at 10 euro.
2018 Pavillon Mougneau, Bordeaux – Very red on the nose, followed by some smoke in the back. In the mouth, unexpectedly green and round. There is a slight hole in the middle of the wine – but it finishes nicely. This was the weakest of the wines we had tasted until now – and I would likely STILL buy it at 8 or 9 Euro!
2018 Baron David, Bordeaux – Green and red fruit, followed by some smoke and lovely herbs on the nose. In the mouth REALLY nice. Deep red fruit, graphite, a touch of charcoal, followed by loads of earth. The finish is long and lean with excellent tannin and nice acidity too. This was the best of the simple Bordeaux wines we tasted – and it also comes in at 8 euro. It’s just crazy. I don’t think this is sold anywhere but France – and that’s almost criminal. If I were allowed to bring back more than three bottles legally, I would be bringing home a case to drink. I mean I really loved this – and 8 Euro is like 30 Shekel. It’s cheaper than almost any supermarket wine currently sold in Israel – and better than ALL of them…
2016 Chateau La Naude, Bordeaux Superieur – At this point I think we took a break and mentioned that we had seen this wine in the warehouse when Yoni was giving us a tour. So while we stretched out legs, Yoni brought it up. After drinking it though, I know why he skipped it. it is really pushed and out of whack. I was going to skip it – but it’s actually one of the wines that is sold in Israel, so I am including it here as a pass.
2015 Chateau de L’Anglais, Catillon Cotes de Bordeaux – Ripe dark fruit on the nose, with some violet in the background. This one comes off as a little sweet up front with plum and really dark fruit at the start, followed by tart red juicy fruit too. There was some nice acid there, which almost came through to save it, but ultimately it was simply way too ripe for me, especially on the finish.
2014 Chateau La Motte Despujols, Graves – Rhubarb, some rose blossom kinda thing – in the mouth, more of the same with red fruit and herbs. Hard to describe. It’s sweet without being overripe. Balance shows in the mouth – where the sweet fruit is balanced out by the acidity and the finish really is nice with earth and tobacco to complete the package. I liked this one a lot and would like to spend some time with it to fully get a handle on how it develops over a longer amount of time. I think this one is 11 or 12 Euro. Just ridiculous.
2016 Chateau Meilhan, Medoc – See previous notes from Strasbourg. Wasn’t good then, not good now.
2016 Chateau Bois-Cardon, Medoc – What a nice nose – with bright red fruit, some floral notes, and steak grilling over charcoal. In the mouth, red raspberry, more of that steakiness, with mushrooms and earth and a great tobacco and herb finish. I really loved this wine. Again – 13 or so Euro in France. I can’t wrap my head around it.
2014 Chateau de Lamarque, Haut-Medoc – The nose here almost has a gaminess like roosted lamb, mixed with green herbs and red fruit. The mouth pretty much follows the nose with crazy tannin and a nice amount of acidity. The finish is long and nice with wonderful earth and nice refreshing menthol. This one is a bit pricier at about 30 Euro. While not a steal, it’s still a nice wine that is not over-priced.
2018 Pavillon Du Vieux Chantre, Puisseguin-Saint Emilion – The nose is another one with beautiful bright red raspberry and herbs that are addictive, followed by smoke, tar, and earth. – The wine follows through in the mouth with additional warm spice and complimentary oak. This is another of this incredible 2018 vintage – and again back with another crazy 13 Euro price tag….
2016 Chateau de Mole, Puisseguin-Saint Emilion – On the nose – and in the mouth, the wine is ripe with nice acidity and a bit of graphite at the end. but it has a huge upfront fruit push that is a little over the top. It also drinks slightly hot. This one is a pass.
2015 Chateau Roc de Boissac, Puisseguin-Saint Emilion – Nose here is really dirty and full of barnyard, followed by dark floral notes. In the mouth – round with violet and purple fruit very full bodied with graphite and some charcoal, followed by tobacco on the end. The acid and tannin here are employed perfectly to balance out the wine. Really nice. And do I even need to tell you how much it costs (like 14 Euro – at this point I think this is just painful – my head is just resenting the pricing and quality we get anywhere outside of France.)
2016 Chateau Castelbruck, Margaux – On the nose, we have blueberries, oak, and sweet cedar and rich milk chocolate, followed by darker fruit. In the mouth, primarily very much in line with the nose, with searing tannin and excellent acid providing a great backbone for this wine. The finish is so nice with great earth and mushroom balancing out the red fruit. This one is also not cheap at about 33 Euro – but again, it’s appropriately priced – not overpriced.
2016 Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere, Margaux – This is the last and most expensive wine we tasted at about 35 Euro. It is very young. The wine opens with red, black, and green fruit, followed by a sweet BBQ scent. In the mouth, this shows some elegance with clear layers of green herbs and tobacco, with bright red fruit, rich earth, mushroom, and more roasted meat. There is nice balancing acidity and tannin galore that coats the tongue. Another winner.
Only a single wine here – and we had tasted it already in Strasbourg, but I wasn’t complaining…..
2017 Domaine Chantal Lescure, Pommard – same notes as in Strasbourg. It actually presented slightly nicer/deeper even – and is just a pleasure to drink. Of course, it’s not available in Israel – though if you are in America, Liquid Kosher likely has you covered…..
There are two take-aways that I hope are apparent:
- If these wines are any indication, the 2018 vintage is stellar
- The price structure of kosher wine in the rest of the world NEEDS fixing. Something is not right here. The Taiebs are hitting it out of the park – and keeping things affordable.
After the tasting, we had a very nice lunch which the elder Mr. Taieb arranged for in anticipation of our visit. This ended up being the day I recall most fondly from my trip. First there is the regional affinity. While I live in Beit Shemesh with many Jews of Moroccan descent, I rarely meet true Algerians. While it is my wife’s family that is Algerian, I still feel a certain kinship. Far more importantly, The Taiebs are absolute gentlemen. Yoni spent many, many hours out of his busy day with us– and quite honestly there isn’t much upside. They don’t need this blog post to push their wines – the quality and prices speak for themselves. Yes – this was an exceptional outing – with a crazy number of hits. But their mentality is what really is behind the success. The Taiebs are out to produce wine that is of excellent quality but affordably priced. They manage to do it across the board. The Taiebs make living in France heaven for kosher wine lovers who enjoy having wine every day. With these prices, that can be a reality. The variety and QPR really is unsurpassed. The question of course is, why can’t we get these wines imported at fair prices in the rest of the world? I would love a reasonable answer on that.
In any event, my many thanks to Yoni and George Taieb for their warm hospitality and their excellent wines.
From Roanne, we boarded a train back to Lyon where David and I parted company. He stayed on in France to visit with family and drink more excellent wine. I returned home, hoping my wife and I were on speaking terms after deserting her for four days for a wine trip.
As this is the last post in the series, I’d like to thank David Raccah of Kosher Wine Musings blog, who really took me under his wing this trip and showed me the ropes in France. I had a great time doing it – and I hope David did too – in spite of my lack of French.