While I count myself among those who enjoy wine with almost every evening meal, like many others I make an extra effort to have special wines o appropriately honor the joyous occasion in question. However, while some holiday choices are obvious (Pessach = best possible wine for the Seder meal (I try not to used big expensive wines for the first few cups since they are tough to really appreciate that way); Chanukah = high-acid wines to match all that greasy & high-oil food), the one gives me some pause is the upcoming glorious Chag of Purim. On one hand, it is by far the holiday most associated with drinking, with much of the action in Megilat Esther coming during the two “wine feasts” hosted by Queen Esther in an effort to defeat the evil Haman so appropriate homage to fermented grape juice is totally appropriate. On the other hand, given folks proclivities for over-indulging during the festivities, it is usually slightly wasteful to bring out the really good stuff.
As a proposed compromise I hope people can get behind, in keeping with one of the missions of my newsletter to introduce folks to wines they may not be as familiar with (and paying homage to another time-honored Purim tradition, that of Ve’nahafocho (doing the opposite)), for this pre-Purim guest posting I have provided five recommendations of wines from varietals you may be less familiar with. While these wines may be those you drink less often, they are delicious and highly recommended, guaranteed to enhance your Purim festivities, regardless of the path they may take…
Barkan, Superieur, Pinotage, 2007: Pinotage is a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, pioneered and perfected in South Africa. Barkan is one of the few Israeli wineries that use this grape to produce a varietal wine and they do so deliciously from multiple plots in the Judean Hills. Blended with 5% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this wine is inky black and full-bodied wine with a rich nose of blackberries, currents and varietaly-true tar, heavy spice, lavender, spicy oak and smoked meat. More of the same on the palate with less tar but welcome additions of more spices, herbs and totally integrated, near-sweet tannins. Drinking magnificently now, I’d finish up any bottles over the next 12-18 months.
Binyamina, Reserve, Carignan, 2009: Carignan has a long history in Israel that until recently was nothing to talk about. Made from 100% Carignan grapes that spent 12 months in oak, this is a full bodied and muscular wine whose power has been nicely reined in with gentle, near caressing tannins that play nicely with the black cherries, fruit and warm spices creating a near-elegant wine which is surprising for a varietal not known for its elegance. A nice touch of earth, roasted coffee beans and leather joins the fruit, tar and smoke on the palate leading into a nice medium finish that pleases. Drinking really nicely now, this wine will cellar nicely and improve a bit through 2016.
Carmel, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi, Riesling, 2010: Riesling is one of those magical grapes that seems to have been made to enjoy with food and this wine, with a touch of residual sugar and plenty of balancing acidity is sure to please. As with every other wine, Carmel’s winemaker Lior Lacser coaxes out of the magical Kayoumi vineyard, this wine is a nearly a perfectly-crafted wine, with a very aromatic nose, generous acidity. Slightly off-dry with plenty of peach, apricot, grapefruit, blooming flowers and hints of minerals on a crisply acidic background that lends itself to great food-pairing.
Dalton, Petite Sirah, Estate, 2009: A very aromatic wine redolent of lavender with plenty of jammy fruits and black pepper on both the nose and palate. As opposed to some of the other Petite Sirah wines reviewed, this one was less characteristically true by being approachable out of the bottle with less robust tannins that were better integrated as well. A round and mouth-filling wine that is an YH Best Buy.
Teperberg, Terra, Malbec, 2009: After the success of the 2007 vintage this wine shows marked improvement showcasing the rising quality of the winery. A full-bodied wine packed with mouth-watering acidity that makes for good food pairing, balanced with bright notes of black cherries, blackberries and notes of juicy plums on the nose together with a slight hint of toasty oak and some warm spices leading into a medium to long finish with hints of chocolate and vanilla layered with more fruit. A YH Best Buy that is delightful to drink now and which should cellar nicely through 2014.
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