Wine and Spirits / Imports of Note

Not long ago I wrote that, while boutique wineries add a distinct charm to the life of the wine lover, one should not ignore the large producers as they often put out generous selections - not only of entry level wines, but of some of the very best wines in the country. The same is true of wine importers, with smaller ventures bringing in exciting finds that might otherwise be unavailable and larger importers offering a broad and diversified portfolio, including quite a few quality wines at very reasonable prices.

This is the case with Chevrat Hakerem, one of Israel's three major wine importers. Its catalog boasts selections from 110 different wineries in 15 different countries, many from a variety of vintage years as well. Following are reviews of recent arrivals to Israel.

France - Chablis

Billaud Simon, Chablis, Montee de Tonnerre, 1er Cru, Chablis, 2008: A full-bodied white, showing generous citrus and summer fruits, along with notes of peach pits, Mediterranean herbs and stony minerals. Silky smooth with a note of honey making itself felt on the long finish. Drink now-2013. NIS 225. Score 91.

Billaud Simon, Chablis, Tete d'Or, Chablis, 2008: Light gold in color, medium-bodied; a well-balanced wine showing chalky and flinty minerals, highlighting aromas and flavors of Anjou pears and green apples. Crisply dry with finely tuned, balancing acidity and a near-chewy finish. Drink now-2013. NIS 132. Score 90.

Italy - Piedmont

Podere Rocche dei Manzoni, Barolo, Vigna Siglo d'la Roul, Piedmont, 2004: Dark garnet, full-bodied, with abundant blackberry and blueberry fruits, those supported comfortably by notes of espresso coffee and baking chocolate. Needs time for its elements to come together but promising very nicely for the future. Best 2012-2025. NIS 475. Score 94.

Podere Rocche dei Manzoni, Barolo, Cappella di San Stefano, Piedmont, 2004: Full-bodied and deeply tannic with generous cedar wood and vanilla notes from the oak in which it aged. A concentrated and intense wine opening to reveal blackberries, purple plums and overlays of pepper and freshly turned earth. Remarkably long. Best from 2013-2030. NIS 575. Score 94.

Podere Rocche dei Manzoni, Barolo, Roche, Piedmont, 2007: Dark, almost impenetrable garnet, full-bodied with generous near-sweet tannins and hints of vanilla and cloves from the oak casks in which it aged. On the nose and palate red berries, currants and cedar wood, coming together in a long and generous finish. Best from 2013-2020, perhaps longer. NIS 350. Score 91.

Prunotto, Bric Turot, Piedmont, 2004: Made entirely from Nebbiolo grapes, dark garnet in color, full-bodied and concentrated with abundant but already softening tannins. On the nose and palate plums, wild berries and licorice, complemented by notes of cloves, cinnamon and toasty oak. On the long, long finish look for hints of espresso coffee. Prunotto's Bric Turot is always lovely, but this is by far the best ever of this cuvee. Best from 2012-2025. NIS 295. Score 94.

Italy - Tuscany

Col d'Orcia, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, 2005: A rainy, cold and difficult vintage year, but this one rises comfortably to show full-bodied, with fine concentration, generous chewy tannins and cedar wood notes well integrated with fruits. Dark ruby in color, with generous blackberry, blueberry and currant fruits supported by notes of Oriental spices and stony minerals, leading to a long, mouth-filling finish. Best from 2012-2018. NIS 340. Score 93.

New Zealand - Marlborough

Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc, Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2009: Shining gold, medium- to full-bodied, with generous tangerine, nectarine and green apple flavors; background notes of gooseberries, spices and earthy minerals. Drink now-2014. NIS 115. Score 93.

Villa Maria, Pinot Noir, Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2008: Dark ruby toward garnet, medium- to full-bodied with still gripping tannins needing a bit more time to integrate. Opens in the glass to reveal plums, blackberries, cassis and notes of sweet spices. Give this one another year before drinking to show its round, polished elegance. Best 2012-2016. NIS 125. Score 91.

Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2009: Golden straw in color, opens with a floral and tropical fruit nose, going on to reveal lime, grapefruit and green apple aromas and flavors. Lively and long. Drink now-2012. NIS 85. Score 88.

Villa Maria, Riesling, Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2007: Not at all typical of the Riesling grape, but a very nice wine nevertheless. A lively wine, with citrus, cinnamon and fig aromas and flavors, with overlays of spices and flinty minerals. Drink now. NIS 88. Score 87.