Mission Conversion – Starter Wines

#145 – October 14, 2010

The topic of this week’s newsletter is the result of a confession I have to make – my wife isn’t crazy about dry wine! I know – it’s hard to believe that after 11 years of marriage and 144 newsletters, I have not been able to bring her around – but there you have it (at least my children enjoy dry wine). Once in a while I come across a dry wine she does enjoy – as an example, the Louis de Sacy Champagne we had for our 11th anniversary was a huge hit while the Magnum of Chateau Léoville-Poyferré 1999 we had for our 10th wasn’t (needless to say – I enjoyed it immensely).

Given that, I am constantly on the prowl for wines that I think she might enjoy and this week’s newsletter discusses introductory wines that are good bets for showing non-drinkers the errors of their ways and bringing them over to the dark side.

Given that we all have friends, family, random acquaintances or Shabbat guests who seem to prefer diet-Coke, Bartanura’s Moscato d’Asti or any other soft drink to actual wine, this week’s newsletter includes a number of recommendations for wines that are more approachable than some of the great stuff I often discuss and recommend on these pages. Finding these wines is a little tricky, but there are some basic guidelines that may be helpful. First, given their low tannin and abundance of fruit, white wines are going to be a better bet than red ones. Second, the lower tiered wines of any winery are usually going to be more appealing, as they are not intended for aging and thus are relatively free of the tannins and wood influence typical of a wine meant for aging (the trouble is so much wine in these lower tiered series is drek so ask around to make sure the wine is good). Third – go for mellower grapes like Merlot as opposed to Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon. Finally, given that our palates appreciate sweet over bitter or tannic, sweet wines are a very good bet. The Moscato grape can provide a decent, well-priced wine. There are many delightful Moscato-based wines (other than the blue bottled abhorrence), that will be as enjoyable to the sophisticated oenophile as to the non-drinker.

To help get you started on converting these non-drinkers into future connoisseurs, I have included a number of recommended wines that fit the bill as well as three Israeli Moscato wines that I recommend trying. The majority of wines below are YH Best Buys to boot!

Shabbat Shalom,

Binyamina, Yogev, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2007: The Yogev Series is truly hit or miss, with some of the wines being really enjoyable and others less so. This is one of the good ones.

Binyamina, Merlot, Teva, 2007: As with many other wineries, whose wines in their lowest tiered series are rapidly increasing in quality thus providing us with better value for our money, Binyamina is following suit with their Teva series which is on pace to beat out Yogev as Binyamina’s best bang for your money. Nice red fruit combined with hints of grilled meat make for a nice little wine and at even “littler” price.

Ramon Cardova, Rioja, 2007: Enough plums, raspberries and citrus to freshen the mouth and plenty of mouthwatering acidity make this a good match to food.

Barkan, Classic, Merlot, 2007: As with the Teva series above, some Classic wines such as this are really good, and some are not.

Dalton Canaan Red 2009: I believe this wine is mevushal but you wouldn’t know it – not a whole lot of personality but a consistently acceptable entry level wine.

Yarden, Gewürztraminer, 2009: Definitely one of my favorite wines and not only because it goes so well with almost every difficult to pair food. Even when bone dry, this wine gives off hints of sweetness due to its fruits so that it may be considered a semi-dry wine. Caution though – this wine may be more appropriate for slightly adventurous first-time drinkers given its funky notes of litchi and overly ripe pineapple.

Tishbi, Vineyards, Emerald Riesling, 2009: Truth be told, I hadn’t tried an Emerald Riesling wine in years before I tasted this one recently. Most are dreadful, but this actually has enough acidity to go with its heavy fruits and remain refreshing.


Dalton, Moscato, 2009: This wine recently overtook the Moscato from the Golan Heights Winery (listed below) as my favorite Moscato with its limes, orange peel and generous sweetness balanced by tart acidity.

Golan Heights Winery, Moscato, Golan, 2009: Only slightly second to the Dalton, this wine has fresh grapefruit, limes and peaches making it a wine that will be enjoyed by all.

Binyamina, Moscato, Teva, 2009: Plenty of peaches and Meyer lemons with notes of summer fields make this more of a summer wine to be enjoyed well chilled, but still delightful any time of year.