Creative Obscurity (Exotic Varietals / Regions)

#287 – March 4, 2015 (Purim Satire)

As we are enveloped by the extravagant Purim holiday, every parent likely breathes a sign of relief that the mad scramble after the latest costume is now over.  After the mad craze last year for all things Frozen (talking about the movie here, not the tundra) launched prices for costumes into the stratosphere, I was happy for a calmer reprieve this year without having to chase the latest and greatest from one TV show or movie or another.  However, ruminating over last year’s insanity led me to the topic of our Purim newsletter – fads.  Despite its obvious place on the list of things in life that really matter, the oenophilic world is as susceptible to the “fad” phenomenon as most other aspect of our lives.  For today’s missive we are going to briefly discuss the proliferation of the fad of “newness”.

The kosher wine has been great at withstanding much of the fads that have enveloped the general wine world including newer fads like natural wine and screw tops and older ones including Burgundy and Chablis, it has thankfully adhered to some of the much more important trends out there including the proliferation of blue-bottled Moscato (since clearly one wine bottled in this manner was insufficient for the quality wine-demanding hordes of folks clamoring for more all across the globe) and the sophisticated genre of semi-sweet Cabernet Sauvignon which appeals only to those with an extremely refined palate (ignore the naysayers out there deriding it as “fake wine” – we know what is good and will continue to drink what we like regardless of the world at large).

More than a fad, one additional trend that is truly imbedded into human nature is the constant desire for new things.  Consistency is clearly overvalued and a winery should literally be ashamed of itself for thinking it could get away with maintaining a small and consistent portfolio of wines.  While the consistent quality is obviously somewhat appreciated, clearly these winemakers and wineries don’t have the eye on the ball and are leaving substantial money on the table by forgoing the ever-important requirement to constantly be providing their customers with new and exciting experiences.  There are many ways in which a winery can create new wines (or at least the perception of “newness” which is just as good).  Chief among them is creating a new blend from among the varietals they are currently growing.  If their existing blend was previously 70% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 30% Merlot, a slight adjustment to the blend by replacing 5% of the Merlot with Petit Verdot provides a completely new wine that will appease consumers and lead them to purchase the wine in droves. Another method that consumers really appreciate are adjustments to the labels and series of a given winery.  By elevating a wine into a higher series (or even better, a lower one with its accompanying lower price) provides a new wine of which consumers can avail themselves.  Yet another is wineries sharing with each other.  If one winemaker succeeds in creating a lovely wine, he is usually willing to share his success with others by allowing them to bottle the wine under their own label which obviously creates a new wine and winery onto itself.

One of my personal favorite types of new wines is based on foreign sophistication.  Everyone knows anything from a foreign country is, in addition to being exotic, more sophisticated and likely better than anything we have in our local country.  In order to satisfy this demand for new wines from exotic locales, there are thankfully kosher wine producers who dedicate their time to straddling the globe in search of previously unknown yet high-quality wine-growing regions.  What makes these folks extra special is their uncanny talent for ferreting out wine growing regions and quality vineyards that have never before been discovered (or at least properly utilized) in the over 5,000 years of winemaking history.  Whatever these folks are getting paid, they deserve so much more for bringing these previously undiscovered treats to our doorsteps.  As Napa Valley, the Golan Heights, Burgundy, the Judean Hills and Sauternes rapidly become passé, these entrepreneurial folks continue to push the envelope, producing unique and high-quality wines from exotic wine-growing regions including the Republic of Georgia, Finland, Uruguay, Moldova and New York.

Historically, this search for the exotic has had mixed results including the acclaimed Cypriot wine “Yayin Cafrisin” that exploded into our awareness a few years back with the promise of reviving ancient traditions.  However recent years have continued to afford us a huge expansion in the various locales form which kosher wines are being sourced with producers finally focusing on the primary (if not only) important aspect of these wines – their locale.  Obviously the quality and consistency of these wines is relatively irrelevant as we can always source good (i.e. boring) wines from our existing sources and what we really want is something new and exciting from a region nobody ever knew could grow grapes.  Vintage is also clearly an unimportant factor and is rarely on the label of the bottles which is OK since the producers are of such high quality and well-trained that they are going to be able to coax the best from the grapes regardless of vintage year.  Bacchus has nothing on these entrepreneurial kosher wine lovers foregoing fame, riches and sometimes their own safety while being laser-focused on the incredibly important task at hand – creating as many kosher wines from the most exotic locales willing to lend its name to a new label.

I have listed below some existing discoveries of mine which include top-tier wines from newly discovered wine growing regions that I am sure you will enjoy.  As an added benefit, these are all YH Best Buys. I look forward to having these folks continue searching for the “newness” and we will hopefully be enjoying kosher wine from additional places in the coming years including India, China, Saudi Arabia and even Antarctica!

Purim Samaech,

Artistas, Del Sur, Tannat, Vintage a Moving Target:  With a multitude of Italian immigrants starting up Uruguay’s modern wine revolution, this fruity and well-balanced wine is made from 100% Tannat grapes, Uruguay’s signature grape, known for serious and long-term ageable wines.  The wine is loaded with the “alluring echoes of wild berries” and is sure to provide much pleasure and amusement when matched to the delightful signature meats coming from this South American country [Uruguay].

Emuna, Bonardo, Consistent Vintage:  Despite Malbec being the grape that “made” Argentina as a wine-growing region to be contended with, with a name like Emuna it obviously made sense to provide kosher wine lovers with a perfect opportunity to experience this cult grape.  Described by the producer as “intense”, “very lively” and “elegant and delicate at the same time”, it is surely a wine anyone would be proud to have on their Purim seuda table and obviously a wine to stock up on [Argentina]!

Jsc Corporation, Kindzmarauli Saperavi D Collection Dry Red Wine, 2010:  Utilizing the indigenous Georgian Saperavi grape, the producers have created a wine with a delightful inconsistency in its name (Kindzmarauli means semi-sweet and “Dry Red Wine” means something else) adding charm to the already undeniable charms of this hardy little grape.  Saperavi is Georgia’s oldest varietal and clearly its most important making the availability of a kosher version of this grape, especially in such high-quality, is of monumental excitement that we can barely contain ourselves [Republic of Georgia].

Proshyan Wine Factory, Pomegranate Wine, Vintage Irrelevant:  While I usually don’t cover non-grape alcoholic beverages on these pages, let long refer to them as “wines”, this wine is so exceptional I felt like I had to make an exception, especially with Purim on my mind.  Cultivated in a factory as opposed to a winery obviously provides an added level of sophistication and panache, to say nothing of the obvious technical expertise derived from producing such a treat in a place like Armenia.  Serve well chilled and/or over ice-cream and you will be moaning in delight for hours [Armenia].

Kesser, Niagara, Blanc, n.v.:  While New York State has won numerous accolades for its Riesling wines, the fine folks at Kesser made an intelligent decision to focus on non-descript white blends in order to heighten our experience.  Since I can’t really add anything to the words of the producer, I will let them speak for themselves: “A lusciously sweet and rich flavored wine, excellent as an aperitif, with lightly flavored foods and especially for Kiddush” [New York State].

Lanzur, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012:  With Chile well known for producing quality Cabernet Sauvignon wines, one can rest assured that this fine wine infused with oak for three months, will please even the most discerning of your guests.  With the “Reserve” moniker in its label exceptionally well-deserved, this is a terrific wine loaded with fresh fruit, market spices and lots of smoke form the oak infusion, all of which combine for a real treat.

Le Soreq, Chardonnay, Semi-Sweet, 2012:  With a well-established wine industry, the majority of which is exported to the delight of wine consumers world-wide, Moldova was an obvious target for the roving wine producers of the kosher wine world.  With a winemaking history of over 5,000 years, I was delighted to try this semi-sweet wine sourced from the most noble of white grapes – Chardonnay.  A great wine to convert any of those self-declared ABC folks, the wine is loaded with all the typically characteristic Chardonnay notes including burnt sugar, cotton candy, pineapple, peach and gooseberry and is easy on the palate [Moldova].

Moses, Celebration, White, Semi-Sweet, n.v.:  Another clear winner from the oenophilicaly awesome country of Finland.  This semi-sweet treat is a delight and is sure to enhance any event to which you will bring it. A blend of Emerald Riesling and Muscat, each enhancing the other while the residual sugar adds plenty of soothing character to provide the structure of an exceptionally elegant wine loaded with sweet fruit flavors that even a three year-old could enjoy [Finland].