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Israeli White Wines For The Summer

If you’re located in the Northern Hemisphere, July signals the time of year when the weather can be hot enough to make you both thirsty and a bit more than uncomfortable. Our minds go to the efficiency of the air-conditioning in our homes, automobiles, and offices, and our palates take us to dishes that are light and not infrequently intentionally served cold. When we think of wine it is most logical for our thoughts to turn to white wines for, in addition to being served well chilled, those indeed tend to be crisper and more refreshing than reds.


Even as a youth I knew that dry white wines are not white at all. Made from grapes whose skin is gold, green or yellowish, their color can range from pale straw-like to yellow or golden. I also learned at an early age that although most white wines are made for consumption in their youth, the very best of them can be cellared for 20, 30 or even more years.


Several years ago, together with our Israeli cousins, many Americans came to the conclusion that drinking white wines was not as sophisticated as drinking reds. Some went as far as to give away all of their whites. That, frankly, was a badly informed decision, for as true wine lovers know, the very best white wines can be no less complex, deep or long-lived as even the best of reds. Whether made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc or Viognier, white wines tend to be more refreshing than reds because in addition to lacking the tannins of reds they are at their best when served well chilled. Simply stated, because we tend to eat dishes that are lighter in the summer, white wines go down more easily than reds.


As to what foods match well with white wines, I have only one rule: lighter dishes should be accompanied by lighter wines (e.g. Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, and unoaked Chardonnay), while medium or heavier dishes should be matched with medium- to full-bodied whites (e.g. oaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Semillon).


Following are reviews of a collection of kosher Israeli white wines that are particularly well suited to the months of summer:


Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Chardonnay, Odem Organic Vineyard, 2008: Bright burnished gold in color, full-bodied, opening with a note of butterscotch on the nose. On first attack summer fruits and pears, those yielding to notes of citrus and crème brûlée. Gentle wood and a near-buttery texture balanced finely with acidity. Not a lively wine but indeed destined to be complex, mouth-filling and, for lack of a better term, delicious. Drink now-2018. $14. Score: 94.


Castel, “C,” Chardonnay, Blanc du Castel, 2008: Light, bright gold in color, full-bodied but with balance so finely tuned that the wine seems to float on the palate. On first attack, grapefruit and grapefruit pith on a seductive creamy and vanilla nose, the wine then opening in the glass to reveal pear, apricot, fig and melon aromas and flavors, all on a mineral-rich background. Long, deep, complex, and elegant. Drink now-2014. $42. Score: 93.


Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin, Chardonnay, 2008: Lighter gold and, although full-bodied, neither as dense or as oaky as with past releases. All of which is just fine, for after distinct notes of butterscotch and poached pears the wine opens to reveal citrus, melon and light toasty notes that prove subtle, complex, elegant and long. Drink now-2018. $22. Score: 92.


Yatir, Viognier, 2010: Unoaked, thus maintaining its fresh fruit character and crisp nature. Light- to medium-bodied, opening with floral and nutty aromas and flavors, going on to show a generous mouthful of pear, apricot and litchi fruits, all on a background that hints of spices and, on the finish, a note of litchi. Round, lively and generous. Drink now-2014. $32. Score: 91.


Yatir, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010: Fermented in stainless steel and then transferred to primarily older oak for two months, light straw colored with a hint of a green tint and just a bare and thus tantalizing hint of the oak. Light and refined, as fresh and lively on the nose as on the palate, showing aromas and flavors of citrus, pears and apples, those along with notes of guava and minerals that arise from mid-palate on. A fine balance between ripeness and finely tuned acidity. Drink now-2012. $32. Score: 90.


Carmel, Regional, Sauvignon Blanc, Upper Galilee, 2010: Light glistening gold, unoaked and showing fine aromatics and lively acidity to support aromas and flavors of passion fruit, pink grapefruit and star fruit (carambola), all on a background that hints nicely of freshly mown grass. Very nice indeed, reflecting the ongoing local improvement with this variety. Drink now-2013. Score: 90.


Galil Mountain, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010: Light gold with green and orange tints. Unoaked, pure, crisp and well focused, with peach, citrus, tangerine and mango aromas and flavors. From mid-palate on delightful notes of key lime pie and stony minerals. Refreshing, with appealing complexity. Drink now. $18. Score: 90.


Galil Mountain, Viognier, 2010: Medium-bodied, light bright gold showing a hint of smoky oak to complement a generous mouthful of green gage plums, litchis, Anjou pears and, from mid-palate on, a note of honeydew melon. Tangy, lively and long. Drink now. Score: 90.


Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Viognier, 2009: On the opening nose light notes of oak and flowers, those parting to make way for aromas and flavors of white peaches, pears and spices and, from mid-palate to a generous finish, notes of green-gage plums. Drink now-2013. $20. Score: 90.


Binyamina, Avnei Hachoshen, Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier, Yashfeh, 2009: A medium-bodied blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier (50%, 30%, and 20% respectively). Aged in new and old oak for six months, shows a complex nose on which butternuts and ripe pears continuing to the glass and opening to reveal notes of honeydew melon and citrus peel. Finishes generously with a near-buttery texture. Drink now-2013. $16. Score: 89.


Barkan, Reserve, Chardonnay, 2009: Light gold, slightly muted when first poured but opening in the glass to show green apple, pear and green almond notes. Medium-bodied, with an appealing hint of bitterness on the finish. Drink now. $16. Score: 88.


Psagot, Viognier, 2010: Developed in new French oak for six months, light bright gold in color, medium-bodied, with generous acidity that calls to mind green apples, the acidity in fine balance with notes of spicy oak. Opens in the glass to reveal appealing spiced pears, litchis and almonds. Generous 14% alcohol, but not a sign of heat. Drink now or in the next year or so. $20. Score: 88.


Tzuba, Tel Tzuba, Chardonnay, 2009: Light bright gold in color, developed partly in stainless steel, partly in barriques (50% of which were new), and with no malolactic fermentation. Opens a bit flat but don’t let that put you off, for all this needs is a few minutes in the glass to reveal aromas and flavors of green apples, peaches and nectarines. Medium-bodied, with appealing notes of Anjou pears that come in on the finish. Drink now. $22. Score: 88.


Next month: kosher white wines from the U.S., Europe, New Zealand, and South America.

 

Daniel Rogov is a premier kosher wine critic and the author of two annual books, “Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines” and “Rogov’s Guide to Kosher Wines.” He can be reached by e-mail at drogov@cheerful.com, and his books can be ordered at www.danielrogov.com.

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