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Wines:
Wine Talk
Italian Wine Tip
Wine Shopping in France
Wining and Dining Tips
Vintage New York
What Makes Wine Kosher?

Wine Talk

How to use this chart: Remember that it is only a guide. Some vineyards produce excellent wines in "off-years" while others produce mediocre wines in a terrific vintage years. It depends on time of harvesting and skills of the vintner. If in doubt, go for a great vintage year and you'll rarely be disappointed. As we mentioned previously, the year 1990 was very good to great just about everywhere. 1988 and 1989 was excellent throughout France. The scale we use is from 1 to 20, with 20 the peak in excellence. Anything above 16 we consider a serious contender, well worth a try. But don't dismiss wines from vintages with 14 or 15. They may make for pleasant drinking. Compare, contrast, taste. That's the way to learn.

  1. drink now
  2. can drink now, but will improve with aging
  3. save the big ones, try the small ones
  4. not ready yet
  5. beware. May be over the hill, or on the edge

Part of the pleasure of oenophilia is learning these intricacies.

1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
CALIFORNIA
Cabernet 18b 17c 15a 15a 17b 18c 18c 18c 15c 16c
Chardonnay 17a/e 15a/e 16a 16a 15a 18c 17c 17c 17c 17c
FRANCE
Alsace 17a 13a 15a 16c 14a 18c 17c 16c 15b 13a
Beaujolais 16e 17e 15a/e 16a 15a 17a 16a 16a 15a 15a
Bordeaux(red) 18c 14a/e 13a/e 14a 15a 19c 16d 16c 16c 15c
Bordeaux(white) 17c 12e 13a/e 13c 13a 16a 16c 16c 15a 16c
Burgundy(red) 18c 15a 16a/e 17a/b 12a 17c 18d 16e 16c 15c
Burgundy(white) 17a 14a 18c 16a/e 15a 18c 18c 17a 15c 14c
Champagne 19a NV NV 18a NV 19 19 16c 13a 16d
Rhone(red)(below)
North(C.Rotie, Herm) 17a/c 15a 14a 14a 16a 18c 17c 17c 18d 16c
South(Ch.de Pape) 18a/c 12e 12e 13a 15a 18c 17c 15c 18c 16c
Loire 17a 13a/e 14a 16a 16a 17a 17a 15c 15a 15b
Jura 17a 15a 14a/e 14a 15a 16a 17a 15c 16c 15a
Provence 18a 12e 14a/c 15a 14a 17c 16c 17c 18c 16c
ITALY
Piedmont
(Barolo, Barbaresco,
Barbera etc.)
18c 14a 13a/e 14a 14a 18c 18c 19c 16c 18c
Tuscany
(Chianti, Brunello,
Montelpuciano etc)
17a 13a/e 13a/e 14a 14a 18c 17c 19c 17c 18c
GERMANY
Mosel 17a 15a 17c 13a 14a 17c 18c 17c
Rhine 17a 15a 16a 14a 15c 16c 17c 16c

NV = non vintage year

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
CALIFORNIA
Cabernet 15b 19b 18b 17a 16a
Chardonnay 15b 16a 16a 16a 17a
FRANCE
15b 16a 14a 13a 14a
Beaujolais 17a 12c 14e 13a 14a
Bordeaux(red) 18d 15-16a 15b 16a 15b 18d
Bordeaux(white) 16c 15-16a 15b 16a 15b 18d
Burgundy(red) 15c 14a 16c 16c 13 some (e)
Burgundy(white) 16c 14a 17c 15a 15a
Champagne 15a 14 16
Rhone(red)(below)
North(C.Rotie, Herm) 18d 15c 13 some (e) 19c 14 some (e)
South(Ch.de Pape) 17d 19d 11 16c 16c
Loire 17c 13a 16a 13a 13e 17b
Jura 16b
Provence 17c
ITALY
Piedmont
(Barolo, Barbaresco,
Barbera etc.)
18d 18c 12e 16c 15c
Tuscany
(Chianti, Brunello,
Montelpuciano etc)
16a 17c 12e 15c 15c
GERMANY
Mosel 18c 17c 16c 17c
Rhine 17a 16a 12e 15c 15c

NV = non vintage year

Recommended in particular in the nineties among French wines are: the 1990 vintage from the regions of Pomerol, St.Emilion, St. Estephe, Paulliac and St. Julien, as well as the Cote de Nuit (Red) from Burgundy and the wines from the Rhone. Wines from the Piedmont in Italy, California cabernets and German wines as well are outstanding. 1991 and 1994 were vintage years for Port. If you're a Port lover, start putting them away now. In 1990 and 1992, German wines were outstanding. For top Spanish Riojas drink 1989 and the Rioja and Ribera del Dueros (Tinta Pesquera) are very good in 1990, too.

1995 was is the first big year since 1990 in Bordeaux wines and 1996, while not as outstanding a wine, holds much promise. The 1993 Lynch Bages is a beautiful wine from a less than sterling vintage. 1985 Domaine de la Gaffeliere has been released in quantity and can be bought inexpensively.

TASTING NOTE:

Oregon Pinot Noirs are coming on strong. For the last four years (2002-2005) they have achieved high ratings, and are accessible early.

The Spanish Rioja and Ribera del Duero in 2004 are also highly rated and can be drunk now or saved.

Southern Australian wines in 2005 are blockbusters and should be saved.

Sauternes in 2001, 2003 and 2005 are outstanding.

At a recent tasting, the 1986 grand cru Bordeaux were tremendous. They actually are competitive with the 1982's. The Pauillacs, such as the Mouton Rothschild require further aging to reach their peak. Margaux are more accessible, for the most part, though they, too, have a long future. Cos d'Estournel was still quite closed but gobs of fruit are there.

Everything we've tasted from the 1997 Tuscany and Piedmont vintages, from humble Chiantis to blockbuster Brunellos and Barolos range from excellent to superb. We highly recommend that you scour your wine shops shelves and stock up. The Chiantis, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso Montalcino, Barberas and small Barbarescos are drinkable now and a delightful experience.

By contrast, the 2000 Bordeaux, considered by many to be the best vintage in many years, requires time in the bottle, even for many of the petit village productions. For drinking "small" 2000 Bordeaux, open well in advance (several hours), allow to breathe, and then decant as well for the best opportunity to get past its guardian tannins to the rich fruit.

1997 Bordeaux was only a fair vintage, but some wines are drinking very well and a re-visit has shown some good buys. 1997 Gruard-Larose, for example, was recently inexpensively available at www.sokolin.com. They are probably out by now, but keep your eyes open for it at your favorite shop. And e-mail Sokolin to be placed on their mailing and e-mailing list. They are an excellent source. Remember one of our tips, great vineyards can produce terrific wines even in off-years!

If you are in New York or vicinity and interested in wines, contact www.zachys.com . Zachys is in Scarsdale and has extremely interesting wine tastings on Saturdays. You can also purchase from them on-line and their prices are often discounted. Ask them to place you on their e-mail list and visit their website as per your interests.

In Manhattan, we like K&D Wines on Madison Avenue between 95th and 96th Street. They are friendly, knowledgeable, have well-selected wines and an unusually good selection of half-bottles.

We've been using Riedel's Vinum Wine Glasses. They are special and do enhance the wine drinking experience. Sherry-Lehmann (www.sherry-lehmann.com) periodically offers them on sale, or look for them on-line.

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Italian Wine Tip

Castello di Ama, believed by many to be the best producer of Chianti, has a "secret" red wine. The "Vigne L'Apparita" is a wine made of 100% merlot, alas in very small quantity but of exceptional quality. The microclimate which occurs in the hills of Ama, notably on the so-called Bellavista, permits growth of beautiful merlots, from which this extraordinary wine is produced. Francois Mauss, one of the great wine experts of France, author of Bacchus, a data-base in wine and cellar management, compares it to the greatest French Pomerols. It is difficult to find, but if you're in Tuscany, look for it!

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Wine Shopping in France

For wine shopping, check out Cave Taillevent's daily specials. Frederic Crespin and his staff are knowledgable, welcoming and English is spoken. You are allowed to bring one liter per person back to the States within your $400 per person limit, but if you don't mind carrying in more, the additional customs charges per bottle are very small. Whether you're looking for a Lafitte or a delicious 1990 Montagny-St. Emilion for $10, Cave Taillevent is a good place to shop.
Located in the 8th at 199, Rue du Faubourg St. Honore.
Tel: 01-45-61-14-09

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Wining and Dining Tips

A tasting of Tuscan wines preceded an outstanding Tuscan tasting dinner at The Mark Hotel (guided by the skillful hands of Chef Andrew Chase and Master Sommelier Richard Dean's selections). The pre-dinner tasting was from Castello Banfi's vineyards and we offer the following tasting notes:

Gavi Principessa Gavia "Perlante" Castello Banfi 2001 This white aperitif wine (100 % Cortese grape, new to us) is straw colored, with a fresh, floral nose, subtle fruit and tropical flavor and a nice clean finish. There is a hint of effervescence which is pleasing to the senses.

Le Rime Pinot Grigio Chardonnay Castello Banfi 2001 The pinot gris grape is associated first and foremost with its origins in Alsace. In Italy it is primarily found in the Veneto (Alta Adige and Friuli). With this wine, Banfi winemakers combine the grape with Chardonnay with uncertain results, according to our palate. The wine was somewhat closed and may show more character with aging.

Col di Sasso Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon Castello Banfi 2000 The sangiovese grape ("Blood of Zeus"), the classic Tuscan red grape, is here combined with cabernet sauvignon, Burgundian in color, it is easy to drink. Not a big wine. Drink with pasta.

Chianti Classico "Riserva" Castello Banfi 1999 Banfi winemakers age this Chianti from two to five years before release. They prefer to use old vines, convinced that old vines make better wines. This Chianti, as we found with many from this vintage, is well-structured, some spice and interesting flavor, though by and large, we prefer the 1997 and 1998 Chiantis.

Dinner followed with very interesting pairings of food and wine. Grilled sardine with picked zucchini, Vidalia onions and olive coulis was accompanied by Chardonnay "Fontanelle" Castello Banfi 2001, a crisp white wine, Burgundian in style, yet unique. It should age nicely and improve with time.Glazed sweetbreads with gremolata, mushroom ravioli and foie gras sauce was complemented by Morellino Di Scansano Reserve Val Delle Rose 1999, two years in the aging and a special Tuscan red. A seated Breast of Squab with Napa cabbage and herb consomm, was accompanied by a Syrah Colvecchio 1998, quite flavorful, but a wine that died quickly. Roasted Baby Lamb was joined to two Banfi super Tuscans, Cum Laude 1999(Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah) and Summus 1998 (Sangiovese, Cabernet and Syrah). The latter was a blockbuster, purple, inky color and intense flavors. Summus has been in production since 1985 while Cum Laude's first vintage was 1999. Drink now or cellar. We finished with a light Ricotta Cheese Cake with spring berry compote and a Rosa Regale Brachetto D'Acqui Castello Banfi 2001, ruby red with froth and a low alcohol dessert wine. Recommended with berries and chocolate.

The Mark Hotel at 25 East 77th St. NY NY 10021 (Tel: 212-744-4300) offers fine cuisine in a beautiful dining room and tasting dinners from September through June. Call and ask Richard Dean for a schedule. You'll find these dinners informative, a setting in which to meet fellow food and wine lovers, and a chance to taste wines that may be new to you.

And here's another tip. Have a look at this web site: www.funwithwine.com

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Vintage New York

The Wine Enthusiast calls it "one of the 10 best New York City Wine Shops."

High praise indeed, for this relative newcomer, which we discovered in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Vintage New York is located downtown at 482 Broome Street in Soho, Tel: 212-226-9463; uptown at 2492 Broadway (at 93rd Street), Open 7 days a week. Tel: 212-721-9999. These shops offers an exceptional opportunity to discover the wines of 160 vintners, contributing to the New York State wine scene. At the shops, you'll find, in addition to New York State wines, locally made artisanal foods, glasses, corkscrews and other accessories. But best of all, from our point of view, is the Tasting Counter. Taste any of the more than 200 wines they sell (there is a small fee), refundable if you purchase the wine. Visit their website and learn more (www.vintagenewyork.com).

Better still, visit one of their shops and learn about New York State wines. We did - and have a lot more to learn in the future.

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What Makes Wine Kosher - It’s kosher, but is it Kosher?

by Sandi Butchkiss

As my orthodox grandmother used to say, there’s kosher and there’s kosher. She had two sets of dishes and pots and pans and silverware. I was well aware of this set up ever since I was a toddler, but once when I was about six I made a boo boo and took a fork from the milchadica drawer to eat my brisket. It was as though I had walked into the kitchen munching on a lobster tail. A terrible shanda. My otherwise calm and soft-spoken grandma leapt from her chair with a scream that they heard from one end of Borough Park to the other. So when Jenny Freeman drank wine, believe me, it was kosher with a capital K.

If you ask Google (who I don’t think is Jewish), they give you about two dozen answers, all slightly different. So who do you trust?

After I read through most of them, I decided that I would go with the gospel according to Aryeh Ganz, the main kashrut supervisor for Carmel wine, Israel’s largest winery. He said that kosher wine starts in the vineyard. This means that anyone who plants the vines, tends to the vineyard and picks the grapes, must be observant Jews, or haredim. In addition, it is forbidden to use the grapevines the first three years after planting. Only beginning in the fourth year (oriah) can the grapes be picked. Also most Israeli vineyards strictly observe the Jewish law of shmita - the final year in a seven-year cycle during which land must lie fallow.

Today there are creative ways to get around this law, Ganz said. "One of them is by symbolically selling the land to a non-Jew for the shmita year and buying back the crops at a low price while sharing the seventh year's profits," he said. “However, unlike other countries, where dead or weak grapevines are replaced every year with new plants, Israeli vintners cannot do this because of the shmita and orlah laws. We have to keep track of the vineyards we work with to make sure no changes that can damage the wine's kashrut have been done." Jewish law also bans Kosher wine being touched, and sometimes even seen, by a non-observant Jew, from the moment of picking the grapes, to the crushing, to the bottling.

To make sure this is observed, wineries employ only haredim. This law also forces the wineries to have every visitor accompanied by a keen-eyed kashrut supervisor, to make sure nothing is touched. "It can be embarrassing sometimes, but there is no other choice since you cannot be sure how religious a person is and you certainly cannot ask him," said Tvzika Shor, the vintner at Zion Wineries near Jerusalem, which produces glat (or ultra ultra) kosher table-wine. Shor emphasizes that all substances used in the process, such as yeast, sulfate, sulfur dioxide or tartar, most of which are made in European factories and supervised by kashrut institutions, have to be kosher.

After the grapes become wine, one percent of the total must be discarded. This is a symbolic reminder of the 10% tithe that was paid to the Great Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times.

Jewish law stipulates kosher wine can become non-kosher (nesech) when it is opened and poured into glasses by a non-observant-Jew. However, if it has been brought to the boiling point and then cooled, it becomes mevushal wine. It sounds like it’s been cooked, but not really, as modern technology allows the wine to be flash pasteurized, or brought to the boiling point within seconds and cooled down just as quickly. This (mevushal) wine tastes as good as any other wine, but retains it’s kosherness no matter who opens or pours it. (The reason Nesech wine is such a no-no is because it was often used in pagan rituals and was forbidden to Jews in the days of the Sanhedrin.)

"The Israeli wineries target their kosher exported wine toward religious customers abroad. They assume that the observant Jewish customer will prefer to order the boiled kosher wine on the menu rather than embarrass the bartender or waiter by not drinking or, even worse, letting them open and pour the wine themselves," said Ganz.

To know for sure if a wine is kosher, look on the label for either a circle with a U or a K inside, because no longer can you tell by the taste. What was once that sickly sticky brew you took little tentative sips of at Passover, has been reinvented and is being grown and produced in France, Italy, California and Spain and winning praise at wine tastings around the world.

I wish my grandmother was around to sample a few. I know what she’d say. She’d say l’chaim.

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