The new world, in terms of wines, is defined as locations where wine grapes were imported after the age of exploration, meaning that grapes were not grown continuously on the same soil for thousands of years like in old world France and Italy; rather, vines were imported everywhere other than Europe, to wine growing regions in America, Chile, Australia and New Zealand. I purposely included lots of Israeli wines in this tasting, not necessarily because I prefer buying them, but because while some of the regions in Israel are historic in terms of wine, Israel reflexively shares characteristics of its fellow new world wines. Surprisingly, though we included many wines from many different regions, all the wines that made it to our recommendations, save one, were Israeli. Sababa!
At this time of year, many of us take the cue of the warmer weather to lay in a few bottles of white wine. Wines just seem to need to be lighter in every way on the hot summer days of Shavuot and beyond. For this pre-Shavuot tasting, my group tasted 16 bottles of wine over two tastings. Here are our ultimate favorites.
The Ohr Haganuz Amuka Blanc 2018, from Israel, has a tropical citrus nose, and was more full-bodied than many of the white wines in our tastings. This mix of 85% sauvignon blanc and 15% chardonnay felt curated and polished. It delighted on the first taste, all the way to the finish. It was the favorite of half the group at our first tasting. Fruity but not too sweet, it was light and airy and perfect for a kiddush at lunchtime. At $20 this wine is winner for sure at a great price point.
By the same token, the Tabor Adama Sauvignon Blanc 2018, at the same price, was similar enough to be surprising. With a nose of “tropical fruit salad” including guava, strawberries and lemon, it was something that was so fruity and enjoyable one could drink it throughout lunch or on its own. A gentle sustained finish and thin viscosity… this Tabor goes down easy. “I could drink this all day,” said Michal.
The Vitkin Grenache Blanc 2017, one of the most expensive wines of our tasting at around $40, is a round and soft wine, made of grenache blanc with a small undisclosed amount of roussanne. The nose has no discernable citrus, but rather more of a Granny Smith apple or starfruit, with light minerality. The five months of aging in new French oak created only the lightest whisper of spice. It was drier than the other two Israeli wines we tried, and that dryness was welcome. It was also similar in a few ways to Adir Winery’s Kerem Ben Zimra Chenin Blanc 2018. This $25 wine was polarizing at the table (half “loved it,” half didn’t) because of its bracing dryness and it was closer to a red wine in terms of how one savored it. I enjoyed it immensely. “This would be really perfect with a bowl of pasta,” Randi said.
Assuming some in our community are interested in dessert wines, we tried a few of them, but none were so nice as the Tura Mountain Vista Gewurtztraminer 2018. This really engaging $25 wine had notes of cantaloupe and stone fruits, and typical of dessert wines, a thicker viscosity but was not syrupy, giving over a depth of flavor and a very even start to finish. “Lasting flavor, very even,” said Chana.
The most surprising wine in our tastings was certainly the Teal Lake Australia Chardonnay 2018. At $10, this is a wine that is accessible and affordable, one to stock up on and drink all summer. It has green melon and stone fruit on the nose and a very thin viscosity. While it has a slightly more bitter aftertaste than many of the other wines in our tasting, we attributed this as somewhat typical of Australian chardonnays and at this QPR (quality price ratio), we felt it was irrelevant. “If you haven’t tasted Teal Lake in a few years, I’d give this another look,” said Shari. “It’s not a complicated wine, but not in a bad way,” said Chana.
But whatever wines you choose to grace your table this Yom Tov, we hope that you taste them responsibly. Chag Sameach!
By Elizabeth Kratz