Binyamina Winery:Two New Wines and Testing an Hypothesis (K)

By: Daniel Rogov

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?By: Daniel Rogov

An interesting meeting in Tel Aviv this afternoon with winemakers Sasson Ben Aharon and Assaf Paz as well as CEO Ilan Hasson of the Binyamina Winery. There were two purposes to our meeting. The first of these was to do advance tastings of two wines that will be making their way to market prior to the onset of Passover. My tastings for those wines follow.

Binyamina, Zinfandel, Reserve, 2009 (Advance Tasting): Medium-dark ruby in color, medium- to full-bodied, with silky tannins that caress comfortably. Thankfully, this is not one of those California blockbusters but an easygoing wine, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins and opening to reveal blackberries, purple plums, licorice and black olive aromas and flavors. From mid-palate on shows appealing notes of huckleberries and black pepper. As good a match to fine steaks or chops as to stews (what comes to mind are French cassoulet and Spanish cocido). Very nice indeed. Drink from release-2014, perhaps a bit longer. Score 89. K (Tasted 8 Feb 2011)

Binyamina, Carignan, Reserve, 2009 (Advance Tasting): I believe this is the first varietal Carignan released in the winery’s Reserve series and a fine effort indeed. Full-bodied, showing dark garnet in color, with soft tannins and gentle influences of smoky wood giving the wine a persona that is simultaneously outgoing and subdued. On the nose and palate plums, blueberries and spices yielding in the glass to berry-cherry flavors and, on the generous finish a touch of espresso coffee. Needs a fine entrecote. Drink from release-2015. Score 90. K (Tasted 8 Feb 2011)

As a side-note, it is good to see Carignan making a comeback in Israel. After far too many years of producing mediocre wines from this variety the time has indeed come when we can expect to start seeing wines that indeed reflect the Mediterranean very nicely


Our second goal was to test something that I had suggested at my recent visit to the winery when I
requested a side-by-side tasting of a bottle of both the mevushal and regular edition of the winery’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. The wines, bottled some months ago were opened and poured with me not knowing which was the mevushal and which not, my promise being that I would publish my “educated guess” and tasting notes whether I was right or wrong in my evaluation. The wines were served side- by-side. We chuckled at the too-many wine critics who would not go out on a limb but as is so often the case my comment was that wine critics are neither gods nor psychics. More than that, the wine critic who was afraid to stand behind his estimates (right or wrong) was a pretty poor wine critic.

Fom the moment I nosed the wine I was fairly well convinced which was which. On tasting I was 100% certain. Luck perhaps (after all, I had a 50-50 chance of being correct) but I think not, for even though both wines were enjoyable there were distinct differences between them. Following are my observations.

Both regular kosher and the mevushal editions show dark garnet and full-bodied with their firm tannins and notes of spicy now settling in nicely. Both also show black fruits and appealing spicy notes. Here, however, begin the differences:

-The non-mevushal wine shows its black fruits, spices and dark chocolate very nicely. The mevushal wine shows those dark fruits but the chocolate and spices are not there replaced instead with notes of prunes and earthy herbaceousness.
-If I had not known that both wines were from the same vintage year, I would have thought the mevushal edition 1 or 2 years more mature.
-I suggested at the drinking that the non-mevushal wine would show well until 2014 while the mevushal cuvee , although still drinking nicely, seemed on the cusp of going beyond its peak and was in a drink now condition.
-As to predictions, the mevushal cuvee will show its stewed and herbal nature at far higher levels within 6 months and will be well past its peak 12 months from today.
-If I was scoring the wines the regular edition would earn 89 points and the mevushal 87.
-I concurred with the winemakers that for many who are not used to evaluating wines, they would stll find the mevushal edition “just fine”. I suggested though that this would not be the case 6 months from now.

Not at all a scientific experiment. Simply a continuation in my ongoing tastings of pairings of wines that are mevushal and wines that are not.

My thanks to Sasson, Assaf and Ilan for coming to Tel Aviv to meet me for this tasting. My thanks as well for their good company over a very pleasant meal at the city’s Stefan Braun at which the opening meze and my entrecote steak (medium-rare of course) were as good as ever they are at this carnivore’s haven.


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