This will be my final post about my most recent trip to France – but buckle up – it’s going to cover over 60 wines! Before I even get started, I have to thank my partner in crime, David Raccah of the Kosher Wine Musings blog. He does all of the logistics work for these trips – working out with the various producers when we can visit, making the hotel arrangements, and arranging for all of the various wines we taste at the hotel. [For that last piece he relies on Ari Cohen of Bakus Wine who is awesome and helps with receiving a good chunk of these wines for us prior to our arrival in France – Thanks Ari!] To say that I couldn’t do this trip without David is an understatement. And even if I could – wouldn’t want to! Honestly hanging out with David for a week in France is really one of the highlights for me each year. Each year we do it a little differently, and each year is an experience! But, no matter how we do it – it’s always super fun – and educational!
Anyhow, this year we omitted all travel, and we split each day between visiting a producer somewhere in Paris and tasting wines back in the hotel room. We usually do this in some sort of suite at a hotel located in central Paris. We need a large room just for the logistics of each of us having sleeping space, storing the insane number of boxes and bottles that come to us while we are there [If you include all of the wine that we tasted and that David and I brought back to our respective homes, it was well over 100 bottles that made their way to that hotel room], and having space to actually sit and taste through 10-15 bottles in a round.
This year, we decided to taste just about everything in the hotel, blind. This sets up some logistical issues. First we needed to make sure that the wines made sense to taste together – it is unfair to taste a small 2021 wine that goes for 8 Euro right after a 100 Euro bottle. The quality is not going to be the same nor is your expectation. And so, to deal with that, as David was aware of the wines we would be tasting (he arranged for them to be there after all), he broke the wines into a number of flights and bagged them in brown paper bags. I then randomly grabbed and numbered them. So – in short, I knew nothing about which wines we were tasting at all – and while David knew which wines we were tasting overall, he had no control over the order and could not know specifically which bottle was being tasted at a given time.
Another issue we faced was wines being affected by either being too closed – or by a lighter bodied wine or a wine made in a more delicate style coming after a more full bodied or robust wine. To offset these issues, we tasted all of the wines that could be affected by being closed, a second (or even 3rd or 4th time) after time had passed. In addition, on subsequent tastings, the drinking order of the wines was reversed so that wines could not be influenced by the same wine that was drunk previously on a subsequent tasting. Are these methods foolproof in terms of guaranteeing a “pure” result? No. But honestly, we gave each wine a fair shake and did our best to ensure that each wines showed as best it could.
Having said all of that, this does show the inherent flaws of tasting fully blind without the proper facility to retaste with the mitigations described above. The order is something that people can understand clearly but there WERE some crazy improvements for certain wines in subsequent tastings related to air – especially in the wines that were made by Pierre Miodownick. Some of those wines showed far poorer in the initial tasting than they did later on – and many of them needed multiple rounds to come in to their own – even the white! I tasted the Carillon D’Angelus over three days total – and quite frankly it was still improving when I had to dump what I had left before getting on the plane back to Israel. This is something that I have known for quite some time and as a result, even though I participate in a number of blind tastings a month usually with tasting groups that I belong to, but because these tastings do NOT lend themselves to the mitigations mentioned above (due to time/logistics constraints) , I never publish those notes.
But luckily, here we were able to do it right and so below you will find notes on all of the wines we tasted in the order that we initially tasted them.
Before I get to that though, I have to describe the scene. As I mentioned, we are in a large suite – there are boxes of wine in every corner. There is a small table where we have 10-15 bottles that David has bagged and I have numbered. We have wine glasses out, computers and phones out. No one is listening to us and so we freely discuss the lines as we take notes. I have to say, in terms of wine tasting experiences, there are NONE more fun than these. Even the ‘80’s pop-rock that David insists on listening to as we taste add to the fun. It is just the absolute best time in terms of tastings. So my thanks to David for doing this with me each year. Super-fun! [Links to his posts about these tastings are here and here.]
Here we go…..
I had high hopes here. Ultimately those didn’t pan out….
2021 Citadelle de Diamant, Mademoiselle, Vermentino, Blanc – 12% abv – I certainly didn’t expect any Israeli wineries to be represented here. Citadelle de Diamant is indeed an Israeli winery, but in 2021 and 2022, they made wine in France to avoid any Shmita issues (not sure why ’21 was an issue for them, but whatever). I also guessed the varietal wrong (guessed SB when it was a Vermentino) – what can you do. On the nose, we have strong notes of gooseberry and lemon rind. In the mouth, there is a nice grapefruit and hay – but it loses the lemon. Overall not bad. 89
2020 Vignac, Gewurztraminer, Pays d’Oc – (Mevushal) – 12% abv – Lychee all day on the nose and not much else except for some faint funk behind it. In the mouth, it tastes like flat Bartenura Muscato. 75
2018 Cave de Ribeauville, Riesling, Vendanges Manuelles, Alsace – (Mevushal) – 12.5% abv – On the nose, apple, quince, hay, with funk all around. In the mouth, very layered and textured. This is a nice wine. Green apple, some Asian pear, mineral, and just incredible funk that screams Riesling, with a bit of pith at the end. Really nice and I understand it goes for under 15 Euros here in France. Crazy QPR for an excellent wine. 91+
N.V. Champagne Cuvee Chambricard, Champagne – 12% abv – Sparkling apple juice. Period. 70
2020 Les Vins de Vienne, Saint-Peray, Les Bialeres, Saint-Peray – 14% abv – At first it’s a nose full of acetone. After some time, that blows off and you have some nice lemon and apple (but it does take a while). In the mouth cloying peach with zero acid at first. But again, with time and air, the acid comes out and tries valiantly to balance this wine, but ultimately it fails. It just remains one note – really ripe peach – and seemingly does not improve past that (at least in the time we had). As regular readers know, that is a profile that I can’t stand. 81
2018 Charlie Winery, Sheleg, Riesling, Judean Hills – 11.5% abv – Another Israeli winery popped up – and this is a wine actually from Israel – not sure what it was doing here (and as you read the notes, not sure who tasted this and thought it would be a good idea to import). The nose is like rotten sweet stewed grapes. The mouth pretty much matches the nose, though it’s not that bad. 65
2020 Château Olivier, Blanc, Grand Cru Classe, Pessac-Leognan – 13% abv – Here is another wine that took an insane amount of time to open – but at least here, the wine comes around at the end. On day one, we had very sweet peach and zero acid. That’s it, and you know my feelings on that profile…. The score, if we stopped here, would have been abysmal. The next day, the wine was better, less sweet, more acid – but really lacking in intensity and complexity. Just a very boring wine. Not fun. On day three, we have really nice funk on the nose with straw and great mineral. In the mouth, you get a very nice mouth feel. The wine presents elegantly yet firm focus with white peach, some funk, great mineral and excellent acid, and some nice flinty slate at the end. Very nice – but this one absolutely needs cellar time to be enjoyed. 91
2015 Weingut von Hövel, Riesling, Saar, Kabinett – 11% abv – This was a wine I guessed blind, as I have been drinking a lot of it recently. It remains rock solid and shows no signs of going anywhere. Beautiful funky petrol on the nose, with nice plum and honey and a hint of orange rind. In the mouth, a beautiful wine that is a touch behind the 2014’s but still great, with nice acidity balancing out the mango, apple, and orange. The petrol and funk notes come through loud and clear as well. Continues to be really great stuff. There is some of this that has recently come on the market here is Israel via Geshem – buy if there is any left. 93
2021 Casa E.di Mirafiore, Roero Arneis DOCG – 14% abv – Barely there nose. Maybe some tropics and apple. In the mouth – very boring – again barely there flavors – perhaps the same as the nose with a little funk – and a little hot on the finish. Not great. 83
2016 Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blancs, Brut – 12.5% abv – This was a shock to me. My notes are on the nose – and in the mouth some toast – yeast, apple, a bit of lemon curd. Balanced. Nice enough, though nothing special (guessing that is an above average 2nd tier champagne). I was shocked when it was revealed that Raccah pulled another fast one on me and threw in the most recent BddB. But tasting blind reveals all sorts of surprises. Sometimes good and sometimes, less so. 89.5
2021 Keresztur, Tokaji, Late Harvest – Horribly sweet nose – to the point where it almost hits your nose like paint thinner. Tons of crazy tropic with sweet citrus. Cloyingly sweet. With barely enough acid to carry it. 83
(The next 2 wines were tasted on day 3, but I included them here for convenience)
2020 Maison Sarela, Eclectic, Languedoc – 13% abv – Watered down peach juice. Horrible. 60
2021 Val D’oca Millesimato, Prosecco, Extra Dry – (Mevushal) – 11.5% abv – Extra Dry! Hahahahaha. This one is simply sweet with zero acid. Extra 5 points for not being peach. 65
Red Flight #1
Going into this flight, all I was told was that this was to be a mix of the lower end wines. This was my first real exposure to the 2021 vintage. Yay for me.
2012 Les Vignerons de Landerrouat Duras Cazaugitat, La Boucaude, Bordeaux –12.5% abv – Color shows old – so who knows what we are getting ourselves into. On the nose, cherry, root beer, and a bit of earth. Nice acidity. A nice amount of cherry and raspberry in the mouth. Nice acid – but one dimensional. Simple wine. Also, fell apart within 30 minutes – so buyer beware. 87 (if you pop and drink it right away).
2020 Château Larcis Jaumat, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – 14% abv – As I mentioned in my Royal post, I tasted this wine twice over my trip, once blind here and the next day with Menachem, and once back home in Israel. The scores were slightly different each time, but ultimately within two points of each other from high to low. I will use the relevant score to its tasting. Not sure what happened here, but this wine did not do it for me at all. The wine feels both very ripe with candied red fruit – plum and raspberry – while also displaying green notes. The acid is nice enough here, but not enough of it to save this wine. 85
2020 Château Bellerives Dubois, Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux – (Mevushal) – 13% abv – Candied jalapeno with green tinny notes , dark red fruit. The wine is overripe and at the same time very green – it then falls apart in the mouth with crazy sweet banana finish. I know David had a better previous experience with this wine, but I can only score what I taste. 65
2012 Les Vignerons de Landerrouat Duras Cazaugitat, La Boucaude, Bordeaux Superieur – (Mevushal) – 12.5% abv – DOA
2021 Château Les Tuileries, Bordeaux – (Mevushal) – 12% abv – On the nose, ripe red fruit, funk, smoke, and that jalapeno that seems to be a recurring theme for 2021 small reds. In the mouth, you get nice jalapeno, plum, earth, mineral with a nice smokey jalapeno finish. Nothing too complex, but a solid simple mevushal option. 90
2020 L’enclos de Zeide, Bordeaux Superieur – 13% abv – On the nose, very green with a little red fruit mixed in. In the mouth, some red fruit, a little dirt with a good enough acidity and tannin. Ultimately just another boring small wine which doesn’t bring anything to the table. 83
2019 La Cour Pavee, Bordeaux Superieur – 14.5% abv – At first we thought this wine was dead. Eventually it opened up – but it really didn’t show too much with some vague red fruit backed by some tannin and acid. 81
2021 Les Remparts de Bel Air, Bordeaux – (Mevushal) – 13% abv – Another wine slow to open. The wine starts just very green and one note. With some air, you do get some tart red fruit with some acid and tannin – but again, not a very god wine even at its best. 82
2021 Haut de Grava, Bordeaux – 13.5% abv – Another green tinny wine, but this time it does have some red fruit to carry it through with some nice raspberry. But ultimately – it’s still not a very good wine. 83
Red Flight #2
This flight was supposed to be mid-level Bordeaux wines. There were a few non- Bordeaux wines that got thrown in at the end – and they really saved this flight, as the rest of it wasn’t anything to write home about.
2021 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion – 13% abv – This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Overtly green notes overall especially on the nose, vegetal. Some eucalyptus and earth. In the mouth, more of the same with some additional red notes of cranberry. Simple overall – and a little hot. Acid is nice enough though. 85
2019 Château Guibeau, Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux – (Mevushal) – 14% abv – This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose, dark red ripe fruit that feels really pushed. In the mouth, much better, with plum and raspberry. Nice acidity and tannin. Very jammy though. If I had to guess, I would have said an Israeli Syrah (but of course I was wrong about that). There is some lead and some creamy milk chocolate in the finish. Not bad. 87
2021 Plume de Paloumey, Haut-Medoc – 13% abv – On the nose, another green wine, but with some nice mushroom added into the mix with some earth. In the mouth, still green at first but opens to develop into some nice red fruit and black fruit with plum and cherry. You have that mushroom in the mix here as well with some nice graphite and earth. The ripeness is balanced out by the earthy mushrooms. The finish is nice, with some lead and smoke and nice toasted herbs and some mint. Not bad. Also, this wine is organic and has no added sulfites. 88
2013 Château Cru Ducasse, Haut-Medoc – 12.5% abv – DOA
2019 Château Haut Piquat, Lussac Saint-Emilion – 14% abv – this wine is made of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Another green wine. Nothing going on here. Just green and flat. I wish I had more to write. 80
2019 Château Rollan de By, Medoc – 14% abv – On the nose, we have some very sweet ripe red fruit followed by milk chocolate and tobacco as well. In the mouth, you have some green notes followed by blackberry, raspberry, and dark plum. The acidity is medium plus and the finish is nice with chocolate menthol and tobacco. Overall, not bad – though simple. 87.5
2019 Château Picampeau, Lussac Saint-Emilion – 14% abv – This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Another ripe and green wine on the nose. In the mouth, some red fruit up front – but the wine falls apart and has no mid-palate at all. Another unhappy wine. 81
2018 Château Lafitte, Cotes de Bordeaux – 14% abv – On the nose, dark red almost black fruit with some nice herbs and roasted meat. In the mouth, near black, red fruit with dark ripe raspberry and maybe even some blackberry, followed by herbs. Good complexity. Long finish with toasted herb and tobacco. Nice structure. Overall nice stuff. 90+
2004 Château Brousseau, Haut-Medoc – 12.5% abv –DOA
2015 Château Real, Haut-Medoc – 13% abv – Another green and ripe wine. In the mouth, a bit more fruit on the attack than is typical of these wines, but there is a massive drop off within the first couple of seconds and the wine does not recover. 78
2021 Château de Mole, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion – 13% abv – And yet another green and ripe wine on the nose. In the mouth, even worse, lacking any balance. Really not something I could keep in my mouth. 75
2019 Vieux Château Guibeau, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion – 13% abv – I thought I had hit bottom with the last wine. I was wrong. This one just tastes like vanilla coke. It is even more horrible than the last wine. 70
2019 Château de Marmorières, Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc – 14% abv – This is a wine I tasted for the first time on last year’s trip to France. Unfortunately I never got around to writing up the hotel tastings from that trip. Very happy that David included it again this year. The wine is a blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache. On the nose – after this relatively dismal round – wow! (On the other hand, these next two wines really belonged with the final round of tasting and not with this Bordeaux-centric round) It’s got it all – deep rich blue and red fruit, toasted herb, some smoke and rich earth. In the mouth, you have raspberry, blueberry, toasted herbs, tons of mineral, and graphite. Just super rich but incredibly balanced as well, with great acidity and mouth-coating tannin. On the incredibly long finish you have more fruit, tons of herb, baking spice, and tobacco. This wine is really great. 92
2018 Maison Sarela, 1922 Meritage, Languedoc – 14.5% abv – Tasting these two Languedoc wines one after the other is really instructive and just shows you what a regional style really is. These two wines from different producers in different vintages are VERY similar in profile. In fact, the descriptors will be almost identical – the primary differences are really in that the Maison Sarela presents richer and a bit fuller in the mouth, while the Marmorières is perhaps a bit more elegant. On the nose, very rich dark red and blue fruit, a bit of smoke, rich earth, saline, and good mineral. In the mouth, ripe but controlled berry flavors – blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry with a deep earthiness and some smoke. Everything is held in check by good acid and nice tannin. The finish is long with concentrated fruit, wonderful graphite and mineral, more smoke, and some worked leather. This is a really nice wine. 92
2021 Domaine Bousquet, Alavida, Mendoza – 14.5% abv – This wine is 100% Malbec, and is organic with no added sulfites. Another wine that really belonged in the last tasting. On the nose, very floral with some green notes, red fruit and some smoke. In the mouth, you have nice raspberry and plum with a hint of smoke. There is nice balancing acidity here and a nice finish of ripe fruit, with more smoke, some nice mineral and this floral thing that it does at the very end. Overall, for me, the wine is just a bit too ripe and floral, but still overall very nice. 90
Red Flight #3
What I was told here was that these were the “big boys.” We opened these as early as possible and pre- scheduled in multiple tastings of these wines as part of the program. Ultimately there were some very nice wines here, mostly the ones that Pierre made and a couple from Taieb. Some other big names really underperformed (I’m looking at you Pape Clement!). Unfortunately, on these next two rounds, we forgot to line up the specific wines of the round for their own picutres – likely due to the multiple times that these wines needed to be tasted. We’ll try to do better next time!
2020 Château Haut-Breton, Larigaudiere, Margaux – 13.5% abv – On the nose, vanilla, crazy sweet milk chocolate, and ripe fruit. In the mouth, we have a different story – a ton of tannin is the first thing you get with near bracing acidity. There is well focused fruit with nice blackberry, blueberry, and good minerals. Really nice. If I were going to grade it after the initial tasting it would have been 91+. In the morning, the nose really improved and many of those sweet crazy vanilla and chocolate notes disappeared and there were some green notes that materialized. I was excited. In the mouth though, the acidity nearly disappeared. Unfortunately the wine did not really change after that. 87
2020 Château Olivier, Grand Cru Classe, Pessac-Léognan – 14.5% abv – On the nose, some faint umami, salinity, mushroom, moist earth. In the mouth, this is very well made. Ripe dense black fruit, nice earth and smoke, mushrooms, saline, soy sauce – just a really incredible savory profile. This is a YOUNG wine and needed time to fully open. The finish is long and mineral driven with graphite and then blackberry behind it followed by some nice smoke. This is a beautiful wine. 94
2015 Vieux Château Chambeau, Lussac Saint-Emilion – (Mevushal) – 14% abv – On the nose, the wine is slightly corked – so my notes there are worthless. In the mouth, with some time, the corkiness did blow off a bit. It’s kind of unfortunate that this bottle was corked, as in the mouth, you can still tell this is a very nice wine. With good minerality, nice raspberry, some plum, mushroom, and graphite running through it. Even with the corking it was a 91 (and likely would go higher with those issues)
2019 Château Tour Seran, Medoc – 14% abv – Nice nose of anise, smoke, black fruit, toasted oak, and mushrooms galore. In the mouth – very nice with great acidity, nice tannin – great extraction here. Blackberry, plum, raspberry, tar, earth, threads of lead, all coming together in a crazy mineral finish. Very nice wine. Fun to drink too! Really excellent. 93.5
2019 Clos de Menuts, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – 14% abv – Weird floral notes on the nose, almost like air freshener and a little bit of red fruit and smoke. In the mouth, it actually tastes like air freshener too! Luckily that all blows off. You end up with violet, red fruit, and some smoke. Nice acidity. Nothing special. By the next day all of those off floral notes are gone; you get nice red fruit, herbs, mushroom, earth. Still a little ripe for me in the mouth. Red and green fruit with not enough acidity to balance – otherwise its actually pretty OK. 87
2020 Château Castelbruck, Margaux – 13.5% abv – If there was ever a case to be made for allowing for the proper conditions to taste and retaste – the following two wines are it. On the initial tasting this wine was dead. I mean nothing. After retasting the following morning….Wow! – What a difference a night makes! On the nose, this wine now has concentrated bright red fruit, crazy mushroom, and some nice earth. In the mouth, very nice with good mineral, tar, raspberry, plum, nice structure, good finish. The wine further improved on tasting that night, gaining a bit more elegance in its presentation and beautiful length in the finish, which has some excellent mineral with graphite and lead and also some worn leather on top of the nice earth. 93+ currently – with room to improve IMHO
2020 Carillon d’Angélus, Saint-Emilion – 14.5% abv – This wine deserves some respect, so even though I usually don’t go into specifics on wines during the blind write ups, this one is different. Carillon d’Angélus is a second wine of the Famous Château Angélus. The facilities originally used to make the Carillon d’Angélus (called Le Carillon de l’Angélus until the 2015 vintage), which were located on the main Angelus estate were too small to accommodate newer modern equipment and expanded capacity – and as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they could not retrofit the buildings easily, and as such for the 2019 vintage a new winery was built to process the Carillon. As the winery building itself is not located in the Saint Emillon Grand Cru appellation, from the 2019 vintage it carries just the Saint Emillon appellation – but the plots have not changed. This is the first time that any wine of Angelus has been made Kosher, though this is not the last. For the 2021 vintage, Chateau Angélus itself was made kosher. Now understand, Carillon d’Angélus has a sticker price of about $360 in France. I shudder to think what the price of Château Angélus will be. In any event, this was one of four wines that we tasted (the others being the 2020 Château Olivier Blanc, Château Olivier ,and the Château Clement-Pichon) that was made by Pierre Miodownick – the famed winemaker of Netofa, who prior to 2014 was the principal winemaker for all of Royal’s European releases. Now onto the tasting itself. This wine makes the case for proper tasting conditions even more than the Castelbruck that preceded it. When first tasting, the wine felt completely dead to the point we felt that perhaps the bottle was faulty and had completely oxidized. The next morning you can tell that the wine wasn’t dead – but it was COMPLETELY closed. We sat swirling and waiting and swirling and waiting and writing notes, but in the end decided to wait another 12 hours to see if we could get something more out of it. After being open for 24 hours, now the nose is brooding with black and dark red fruit – with nice mineral and earth with excellent mushroom. In the mouth, still closed – but excellent acid mouth coating tannin. Rich extraction. The wine is super complex with nice spice, including black pepper, white pepper, and baking spice like nutmeg. There is excellent herb with great dark plum, blackberry, and raspberry. The finish is incredible with great mineral and gravel with sweet tobacco and more herb. David left early the next morning, and I kept the wine. I tasted it in the morning and there was not much of a change in the descriptors, but the wine was beginning to open, and the depth and complexity were more easily readable – though the wine was still relatively closed. I decided this would be the last wine I would taste in France and took it with me to the airport about eight hours later and tasted before going through security. This is a stunning wine. Yes, it still closed after over 40 hours of air. This one is built for the ages. The only thing that prevents me from adding it to my cellar is the price. I simply cannot afford it – though I wish I could put away three or four of these and taste them in 10, 15 and 20 years from now. In any event, at my final tasting, the wine was a 95 and had potential to go even higher.
2020 Château du Courneau, Marguax – 13.5% abv – On the nose, intense milk chocolate, which mellows into vanilla with blue and black ripe fruit and a touch of tar in the back. In the mouth, you have rich extraction, though the wine is closed with a touch of violet, nice raspberry, and milk chocolate. Nice acidity and good tannin. The wine did not change much the next morning, but later on, the wine started developing a hole in the middle. The finish was long with blackberry, sweet milk chocolate, and some nice mineral. Now this is a case where the wine might have come back to itself and gained a point if that hole filled in later, but for now – 86
2019 Clos de Menuts, L’Excellence, Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 14% abv – At the initial tasting, ripe nose with notes of cola. In the mouth, barely there tannin, no acidity – just bad grape juice. Overnight the wine did a 180. The nose is now red fruit, with some mineral and earth. In the mouth, you have nice red fruit like raspberry and sour cherry with nice earth and good mineral. Nicely balanced. Flavor profile of a PN, but the body is clearly Bordeaux. This improved further, and the long finish is now mineral and smoke. Unique wine. 90
2020 Marquis, Haut-Medoc – 12.5% abv – Good earth, white pepper, some smoke, maybe some herb and menthol, and at the very end, some red fruit. But it hits ripe in the mouth, boring with no acid and a massive hole in the middle of the wine. The next morning this wine has changed. It is now EXTREMELY green on the nose. All of that fun complexity is gone. The mouth follows, though the hole is now not present and the acid has kicked in. But that doesn’t really help things as it is just augmenting a green mess. 80
2017 Château Pape Clement, Pessac-Leognan – 13.5% abv – IMHO, this smells like a baby’s diaper and does not taste much better. 65 (that’s a generous score IMHO – and yes, we gave this wine every chance to improve)
2020 Château Clement-Pichon, Haut-Medoc – 14.5% abv – Soy sauce umami goodness is what hits you first on the nose, followed by some smoke, nice black fruit, black pepper. That’s a really nice nose here. In the mouth, very crazy ripe blue fruit nearing purple – ultimately the wine is super closed. The next day, thankfully, the nose is the same. And even better, the wine has opened nicely with blackberry, beautiful extraction, with soy, umami, and mushroom really defining the profile. The finish is long and wonderfully mineral driven, followed by some smoke and roasted meat. Really nice bottle that was a pleasure to drink. 93.5
2019 Château Jaumard, Bordeaux – (Mevushal) – 14.5% abv – On the nose, there is great barnyard, followed by red fruit and earth. In the mouth, very ripe plum and lacking in acid, but not horribly. Nice tannin. This is a case where the Mevushal process likely hurt the wine. 87
2015 Menuts, Bordeaux – 13% abv – DOA
2020 Château Haut-Brignot, Haut-Medoc – 12.5% abv – If I had to guess, this presents like a typical 2021 green tinny wine (even though it wasn’t). Really nothing else to write – just cut and paste from a dozen or so previous entries here. The next day we had more of the same – again presenting both green and overripe and with zero acid and a touch of tannin. Uch. Overnight, the ripeness is gone, but then you just have the green tinny notes. 70
2019 Château Cheval Brun, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – 14% abv – On the nose some non-descript red fruit with some green notes and not much else. Watery in the mouth with just some barely there red juice. No acid. A bit of tannin. A that point it was an 80 (generous) – but the wine deteriorated in 10 minutes to just barely flavored water. 60
Red Flight #4
This, our final flight was made up of non-Bordeaux wines. Some nice finds here. Again, sorry that I don’t have a picture for you.
2020 Vignobles Mayard Le Hurlevent, Châteauneuf-du-Pape – 14% abv – This smells like a classic well-made CdP. Beautiful nose – ripe clear elegant blue fruit with great earth below. Really stunning nose. In the mouth at first, it presents a touch sweet – but that blows off. Beautiful extracted blue profile – with blueberry, mineral roasted meat, earth, some candied red fruit, and a hit of cracked black pepper. The wine is perfectly balanced with good acidity and mouth coating tannin. The finish is long with more blueberry, graphite, and white pepper. Really excellent bottle. 93.5
2019 Domaine Ouled Thaleb, MD Excellence, Zenata – 14% abv – On the nose, funk, mushrooms, some earth, and sausage and, with air, nice barnyard. In the mouth, it is very floral, with nice acidity, and good tannin with the other flavors – primary raspberry, plum with a little smoke, only coming second. Overall I thought this not bad – ripe, but fun to drink. 87
2021 Philippe Paine, La Petite Metairie, Vielles Vignes, Chinon – 12.5% abv – From the color, this wine looked like Gamay. On the nose though, it clearly isn’t – it’s mushroom city with red fruit and some nice earthy notes. At first in the mouth, this wine was flat as a board and near flavorless. But eventually it opens up and, on the retaste, it is alive and kicking with nice acid tannin and a profile of cherry, mushrooms, and herbs with some smoke. Very nice bottle. Solid. 91
N.V. Badagoni, Saperavi, Special Brands, Gold, Kakheti, Georgia – 14% abv – Mushroom on the nose, with crazy ripe red fruit, nice earth, and sausage. In the mouth, we have crazy ripeness, with candied raspberries, blueberries, and even some root beer and white pepper, leather, and a bit charcoal, but the acid really is incredible here, and it remarkably ended up being really well balanced, with some nice depth and complexity. When we tasted this blind, we both guessed some sort of Rhone blend (the only thing giving away that it wasn’t that was the bottle shape). Super surprised and happy when the wine was revealed. Certainly the first kosher Saperavi I’ve had. This is one worth finding. 92
2019 Les Vin de Vienne, Cornas, Les Barcillants – 14.5 abv – Mushrooms and cherries pretty much exclusively on the nose. In the mouth, red fruit with cherries and raspberries followed by mushrooms, and nice earth. There is a hole in the middle here, but otherwise OK. When tasted later, the wine had sweetened up considerably and ultimately, apart from it being very tannic and very fruity, there is not much else there. 86
2020 Les Vins de Vienne, Saint-Joseph, L’Arzelle – 14.5 abv – This was another wine we guessed as Rhone from the nose – which was blue fruit, sausage, soy, and smoke – and this time we were right. In the mouth, you get intense blueberry, black pepper, and sausage. Nice balancing acidity and decent tannin. Nice wine. 90.5
2021 Philippe Paine, La Petite Metairie, Bourgueil – 12.5 abv – White pepper on the nose and, quite frankly, in the mouth, with tart cranberry and rhubarb. Nice tannin and decent acidity. Finish lingers. Nice but simple. 88+
2021 Casa E.di Mirafiore, Dolcetto D’Alba – 13.5 abv –On the nose, you have banana cherry juice. Really disgusting. With time, the banana blows off and you end up with red fruit and earth. In the mouth, zero tannin – just round uninteresting juice. What a sad way to end. 70
60+ wines in all tasted blind this trip and over 80 tasted in the hotel altogether. I think that is a new record for us. Epic.
Overall out of the about 80 wines we tasted in the hotel (inlcuding the JP Marchand Burgundies and other random wines we had) – there were 12 winners, some of which are pictured above (missing there are the Von Hovel and Ribeauville Rieslings). By “winners” I mean not only that a wine received a great score, but that the QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) is also excellent. Obviously a wine like the Carillon d’Angélus doesn’t qualify. Even with a score of 95, at a price of $360 it would have to be the finest Kosher wine ever produced to even be considered here. So 12 out of 80 is just 15% – which is pretty dismal. And it just goes to show you (for those of you who think I favor non-Israeli wines), just becuase a wine is French, doesn’t mean it’s good or even provides value. Mediocre and bad wines are produced in every region in the world….
That wraps up my posts about this last trip to France.
Already looking forward to my next visit!