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Posts Tagged ‘Burgundy’

Vinexpo entrance

As I’m trying to focus more on wine, I feel obligated to devote a post to my Vinexpo experience.  As I’m tired, working, it’s August, hot as hell, and I’m typing away outside today as there’s no room inside at the cafe I stopped at because I could walk no longer – this is difficult.  But I’m going for it because sooner is better than later (and it’s been – my god – over a month since the event).  Without further ado, I give you…

VINEXPO 2011

Overview: Founded in 1981 by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux, the Vinexpo has emerged over the years as the great meeting place for global operators of wines and spirits. The expo takes place every other year in Bordeaux at the fairgrounds. It takes place during one week in June every odd year and welcomes some 50,000 visitors, and hosts 2400 exhibitors from 47 countries. The main exhibitors are French and Italian.   In 2011, one out of three non-French exhibitor was from Asia, and recorded 48,122 visitors from 148 countries, up 3.22% compared to 2009.

ISRAELI WINERIES

The GHW and GMW booth at Vinexpo with Head Winemaker Victor Schoenfeld and Director of Sales and Marketing Arnon Harel.

I was honored with an invitation to come and work at the expo by the Golan Heights Winery.  They have been exhibiting at Vinexpo for at least 20 years, as far as I know, the only winery – at least this year – from Israel.  This year, we also brought wines from our daughter winery, The Galil Mountain Winery.  I speak French fairly fluently (I lived in Paris as a child, grew up in a loosely tri-lingual household, and continued my studies through high school and university – where I focused heavily on French literature), but needless to say, my wine vocabulary was lacking.  I spent the two months before attempting to brush up – listening to French news radio on the internet, and I found some Skype-pals, for lack of a better term, through a free service that pairs up people wanting to improve their foreign language speaking skills through an exchange with native speakers, online.  A fantastic idea.  I also created lists of wine vocabulary, watched wine-making videos on YouTube, and I did some research on wine websites and wine regions in France, simply to read about these topics in French.  It all helped.  I was a bit overzealous in my preparation and overly nervous about my ability to perform, but I think I did well.  The first day I felt I was a bit shaky – but after a glass or two of wine and hours on end of speaking just French, it came very easily.  I was there to pour wine, explain about our wines in detail, and introduce whoever was interested to what Israeli wines really are.  A great fun very professional exhibition.  I met wonderful people, and I learned a lot, too.

FEATURED WINES

The Golan Heights Winery Big Wigs (and the 7 wines we served)

Golan: Yarden Gamla Brut 2005; Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2010; Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organ Vineyard 2009; Yarden Syrah 2006; Yarden Merlot 2007; Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2007; and Yarden Heights Wine 2009.  We also brought a hodge-podge selection of 2-3 bottles of various other wines to share with journalists, specialists, and international distributors, if the moment arose – from the Golan range, through Gamla, and a few special single vineyards and top limited-edition wines like the Rom and Katzrin.

Galil: Sauvignon Blanc 2010; Viognier 2010; Avivim 2009; Pinot Noir 2009; Meron 2007/2008; Yiron 2007.  There were also some random bottles opened on occasion, if memory serves, perhaps some of the younger reds.

MY EXPERIENCE

As the only French speaker, I found myself at the stand so much that I didn’t see much of the rest of the expo.  Frankly, that was OK by me.  Victor, the head winemaker, worked extremely hard, too, as well as some of the others, and when you get into a rhythm, adrenaline kicks in, and it’s extremely fun work.  A real team effort.  We had “Wine ID Cards,” as we call them, with all the stats on the company, the numbers, and the geography, complete with map, as we used as a starting point to explain about the location of the vineyards and the specific terroir.   What I found surprising was the people were incredibly open-minded.  I think that a number of them simply came out of curiosity, the novelty of an Israeli winery, but the fact that we’ve been winning very important awards, especially as of late went a long way, too.  People loved our wines.  The most “negative” comment I got was that it was very different than what they make in France.  Perhaps they were being polite.  However, the rave reviews some people offered up, who came back for seconds, who finished their glasses instead of using the spittoons, were not uncommon, and it was energizing.  I was so happy to be there.  Honestly, I was so proud to be there.  And to be spouting off facts, figures, agricultural specifics, aging techniques, standing right next to the winemakers – hopefully getting it all right (I certainly prepped enough) – was something else.   I feel I proved something to myself.  I’ve come very far in just two+ years in the trade.  I’m actually able to teach things, and in some ways also to inspire.  I love these wines, and I love the people I get to work with even more.

And enough drippy drippy sap I’m spouting.  Of the OTHER world wines I got to taste:

  • Lebanese wines: SO different from Israeli wines, and such a small distance away, it’s surprising (almost all of the wines are made in the Beqaa Valley).  I found them sharper somehow.  Very different layering.  A lot of the wine wasn’t amazing, I have to admit, as younger wines always are.  However, among the young wines, there was a lot of creativity – fresh and bright.  The vines in Lebanon are older than ours, at least some of them.  Because Lebanon is not a dominantly Muslim country, there have always been Christians there – I met a lot of people who had vines that were decades and decades old.  A big positive factor in the quality of the grapes.  Of course, there are also a lot of new ventures.  I met French winemakers who were hired by Lebanese and Syrian businessmen who wanted to build up wineries as an investment in recent years.  The wines I tasted that I remembered most were from Chateau Ksara and Château Kefraya.
  • Japanese wine: no, I’m not talking sake.  I’m talking real true blue wine from grapes of the authentic Vitis vinifera.  They don’t yet have a website, the wine is in such limited production, and for the life on me I cannot remember the name.  Crazy.  I will find out, though, as I know some people who know some people and I will update soon.  Perhaps I’ll write a post on it.  What I remember is this:  it was distinctive as hell.  I don’t know whether I loved it or hated it.  Not kidding.  There were two wines, one younger, one more aged – premiere, both white, very fresh and sharp.  What was distinctive first was the smell.  It was like stinky bleu cheese and fresh green melon.  Weird.  I mean so weird, I felt like my facial expression might have insulted the women representing the winery.  They served sushi with it.  The taste was so contrary to the smell, that was the next oddity.  Very floral and green.  They were saying that the specific grape varietal was native to Japan and had been evident in records for over 1,000 years.  How this fruit came to Japan that long ago is a mystery.  On the wings of a bird?  On a rare random trade ship?  Because it is the real deal species.  Not a different fruit.  I will find the name, promise.
  • Chablis: I tasted the whole lineup of wines from the Durup family’s winery.  It’s good solid decent Chablis.  I liked the Chablis 1er cru Vau de Vey very much, although I must say that their Petit Chablis was just as lovely and drinkable.  For people who want a fun summery wine, and aren’t wanting to break the bank, it’s a great choice.
  • Sicilian wines: I tasted a big-commercial-winery’s wine from Sicily two years ago and was blown away.  Since then I’ve kept my eyes open for Sicilian wines in Israel.  This wine was so rich and deeply fragrant, reminiscent of cassis (black current), that I was kind of in heaven.  Cassis reminds me of France and England and childhood and fruits from other-parts-of-the-world, not the standard everyday variety. Needless to say, there aren’t many Sicilian wines available in Israel.  I got a chance to taste many many Sicilian wines at the expo.  In short, there are volcanic regions on the island, and surprisingly enough, non-volcanic regions, too.  The wines are dramatically different.  The dominant local varietals are Nero D’Avola (red) and Inzolia (white).  I was pleasantly surprised by the whites, as I hadn’t tasted them before.  Because of the sort of “transparency” of flavor inherent in white wines (for even the beginner, it’s easier to detect differences between white varietals than red ones, at least in my opinion, and they are easier on the nose, if that makes any sense) – I felt I was tasting something so new yet so ancient.  I don’t have my notes in front of me, unfortunately, but maybe I’ll do a separate post on it, too.
  • Burgundy: Tasted some, people were pretentious, the wines weren’t at the correct temperatures, by a long shot , and I didn’t have a good time.  I moved on quickly.  So I can say I drank a glass of grand cru.  OK.  My notes are elsewhere, and that’s OK by me.
  • Bordeaux: Besides the two stands I stopped at, we drank Bordeaux wines all week at dinner.  There is a reason that these are the kings of world wines.  Even the youngest wines are so distinctive of this region.  The layers and complexity are fascinating and at the end of the day, delicious.  At one of the stands, a young man took me through a very interesting tasting.  I got to taste, albeit two simple wines, ones that were made a few meters from each other, from the same vintage, made in the same method, by the same winemaker.  And the differences were dramatic.  An exceptional lesson on terroir, for sure!

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A day late, but not a dollar short, I’m hoping.  There are a lot of exciting wine happenings going on this weekend.  In short – read on – and whatever you do – if you are drinking wine this weekend (and I hope you are) make sure it’s a good one.

Events:

Friday, April 25 – Yarden Single Vineyard tasting at ALL the Derekh HaYain stores.  I will be at the Hashmoniam Street store at 10 am to 3:30 pm tomorrow opening some ridiculously incredible wines including:

2009 Yarden Chardonnay, Odem Organic Single Vineyard
2007 Yarden Merlot
2005 Yarden Merlot, Tel Phares Single Vineyard
2006 Yarden Syrah
2006 Yarden Syrah, Tel Phares Single Vineyard
2007 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon

Be there or be extremely square.

Saturday, March 26 – 2008 Bourgogne Wine Release Block Party @ Alkalay! From 12 pm to 12 am there will be dozens of the finest Burgundy wines available for half glasses, full glasses, half bottles, and bottles.  That’s right, you too can afford to drink a thousand shekel bottle, or at least a fraction of one.  It’s sickeningly awesome.  Wines included are:

Whites
Château de Puligny – Bourgogne Rosé 2009
Ramonet – Bourgogne Aligoté 2009
Jean Durup – Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2008
Deux Montille – Rully 2008
Héritiers du Comte Lafon – Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine 2009
Christian Moreau – Chablis 1er cru Vaillon 2009
Ramonet – Chassagne-Montrachet 2008
Domaine Leroy – Bourgogne Aligoté 2007
Antoine Jobard – Meursault En la Barre 2008
Château de Puligny – Puligny-Montrachet 2008
Roulot – Meursault 2008
Sauzet – Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru La Garenne 2008

Reds

Marcel Lapierre – Morgon 2009
Château de Puligny – Monthelie 2008
Vougeraie – Côte de Beaune “Pierres Blanches” 2008
Ramonet – Chassagne-Montrachet 2009
Leroy – Bourgogne 2007
Méo-Camuzet – Fixin 2008
Gouges – Nuits-St-Georges 2008
Denis Mortet – Gevrey-Chambertin 2008
Liger-Belair – Vosne-Romanée 2008
Emmanuel Rouget – Vosne-Romanée 2008
De Montille – Volnay 1er cru Taillepieds 2008
Prieuré Roch – Nuits-St-Georges 1er cru Vielles Vignes 2007

Be there or just be really uncool.

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If I can muster the energy and discipline, I’m thinking of doing a weekly wine-oriented post. As I’ve been living and breathing nothing but wine, mostly trying to absorb as much knowledge on Bourgognes as fast as possible, I feel like I’m bursting. So without further ado:

Fun things I’ve learned:

  • Bourgogne wine families are, for lack of a better term, incestuous.  You know, like, this famous vinter’s daughter married this other guy from down the road who was an international playboy until his dad died and he had to take over the business who now makes world-class wine, and his sister-in-law’s cousin is the owner of the finest plot of grand cru in Beaune…. And on and on.  Hearing the stories is like watching an episode of 90210.
  • I would really, really, really like the opportunity to try a DRC.  Enough said.
  • I need to give Italian wines more of a chance.  Chianti be damned!  You give Italy a bad name.  No, no, I’m being too harsh.  Still…

Things you should read ASAP because it’s good and informative and entertaining:

Interesting tidbits either said to me or  overheard during a wine tasting I worked last week:

  • You didn’t succeed… (whispered a little old man to me with an evil wink in his eye as he walked out of the shop, not having purchased anything.  This after he told me he doesn’t drink anything but kiddush wine.  Yeah, I want your business, buster.)
  • You succeeded there… (posh middle-aged woman said to attractive 30-something man referring to his 4 year old son.)
  • People without money don’t like good wines… (said a really arrogant 40-something guy buying crap severely-overpriced Spanish Crianza with a fancy gold label.  You tell ‘em.)

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Due in part to my ever-tentative decision-making, in part to terrified inaction, and in part to my asking for help (a brave gesture, I might add – something I rarely do because it scares me to no end), I have reached a scary-exciting and potentially happy-happy place: I will be making the majority, if not all, of my income through wine and food!

I got a part-time job in an incredible wine bar: Alkalay, in the Basel Square area.  It’s small, casual, and yet it has hands-down the best selection of Bourgogne wines in all of Israel.  This review says it all.  I feel honored to be working here.  I’ve learned so much, and I also get to cook!  Minor yet lovely little things.  Gourmet cheese plates, smoked and salted fish, charcuterie, crudites, bruschettas, and steamed dim sum, mostly.  I really think I’ll be happy here, and I can only hope the management’s feeling is mutual.  With other wine-and-food-business ideas I’ve got brewing on a few different levels, as well as my continuing work with the incredible Golan Heights Winery, I may actually be able to work, and succeed, doing something I love.  It’s going to be physically taxing.  Hard, hard work.  But it’s not eons away.  It’s here.  And it’s hard to believe.

Here are some photos and links.  Reviews of spectacular wines are forthcoming.  Hurrah for wine!  Indeed life is too short to squander.  If only it was easier to convince ourselves.

Ten things that can impair wine-drinking pleasure: a very sensible article.  Take a look.

Wine in Two Words: Sweet or Savory? Interesting article from yesterday’s New York Times.

Alkalay Wine Bar and Store, as seen from above. Isn't it beautiful?

The Burgundy section. Not the best photo, but you get the gist. Some of the best domaines are represented. Some mind-blowing grand and premier crus.

 

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