Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Every year, we see articles about the newest or fanciest releases of wine for Rosh Hashanah. While I have myself written some of those articles, I must admit having grown a bit tired of them. Reflecting on the past to look ahead for a brighter spiritual future, I believe that I should act in the same way towards some practical things as well, such as wine. For my selection for these coming holidays, I thought I should not solely focus on new or expensive wines but also go back to some wines that, while not new, are delicious and well worthy of the celebrations.

Everybody should know that if there is a single winery that has always known how to reinvent itself while retaining the lessons from its rich history, Carmel is the one. I have been praising Carmel for years now, as I truly consider this winery to be among Israel’s very best. Sure, their flagship Limited Edition and Single Vineyard (Kayoumi Shiraz and Riesling, Shaal Merlot and Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, Sumaka Cabernet Sauvignon, Admon Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon) are always excellent. The Appellation series is always dependable, as well.

However, it is with the entry level of a winery that one can really recognize quality from the ground up. Carmel has recently released a complete lineup of eight wines in its Selected series. These are wines that are very much affordable and yet provide quite pleasant drinkability. My favorite is the Mediterranean Blend. For years, Israeli wineries have been struggling to make their wines stand out from those of other wine-growing regions. Many people who are not familiar with Israel in general and Israeli wines in particular wonder what is so special about them. Carmel, which is arguably the winery at the origin of Israel’s wine renaissance, has come up with the answer: Israel has the ideal terroir, the perfect soil and climate for varieties such as Carignan, Petite Sirah, Viognier or Petit Verdot. After multiple successes with wines based on these aforementioned varieties in their high-end series, here is a wine that is delicious, inexpensive, food-friendly and that showcases unique characteristics.

Rosh Hashanah is also a time for taking inventory of the past year, something that requires extra humility. In that spirit, I thought I should talk about a new French wine that is not considered fancy and yet bears the same features and qualities of some of the most prestigious wines. Château Royaumont is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It is made by Vignobles Péré-Vergé, the same producer as Château Montviel, in Pomerol. While not as exuberant, the Royaumont offers remarkable complexity as well as the potential to be cellared for over 10 years from harvest. The Pascal Bouchard Le Classique, which hails from Chablis, an appellation within Burgundy, is yet another French wine that is reaching the stores shelves these days. As opposed to most kosher Chardonnay wines, this one is unoaked and its style is radically different. It showcases some bright citrus and green apple fruit profile with notes of saline and earthy minerals, as well as lip-smacking acidity. It is really fun to compare and taste it side by side with another excellent yet different style such as the Matar Chardonnay from Israel with its slightly creamy texture and buttery notes. 

It is customary to indulge in sweet fruits and treats on Rosh Hashanah, in the hope of being granted a sweet new year. Herzog Wine Cellars in California have been crafting stellar dessert wines for more than two decades with the Late Harvest series. My personal favorite is the Chenin Blanc, a variety originating from France’s Loire Valley. The grapes for this wine grow in the Herzog family’s vineyard in Clarksburg. The wine has a luscious, almost oily texture with aromas and flavors of quince jam, pear and lemon drops with hints of dried apricots and honeysuckle. It is the perfect companion for an apple pie.

Happy and sweet new year to all, Shana Tova!

By Gabriel Geller

 Gabriel Geller is a wine consultant for Royal Wines.