Sunday, 7 February 2010

Miracle in Upper Galilee? Segal's Dovev Single Vineyard Argaman

We at Slotovino haven't been against hybrids: as ever the proof has been in the drinking, so we have praised Marselan, Alicante Bouschet, Saperavi and Goldriesling and been cool to Chasan and Emerald Riesling. The reputation of Argaman however did not prepare us for this outstandingly successful wine: Segal's Single Vineyard Argaman

True it is fermented on Merlot skins from the same producer but it is otherwise 100% Argaman. The label explains that the success of this "modest origin" wine is due to planting in "a more callenging environment...shallow loam over limestone at an altitude of 715 metres...exposure to extreme climactic conditions and some poor soil are challenging: the vines responded with fruit of a character unknown elsewhere in Israel."

This is a familiar tale. The winemaker, Avi Feldstein seems to have redeemed the unpromising Argaman and released its full potential. It may now join our pantheon of great wines from obscure or even maligned grapes. Here are some of the red varieties praised in our Blog;

Nerello Capuccio
Pineau d'Aunis

Even the authoratative Daniel Rogov seems to have been thawed-out just a bit by Segal's Argaman. If he doesn't mind, it is worth quoting his review in full while remembering he was the initial doubter of this variety

Dec 2008

Argaman, for the uninitiated is a cross between Carignan and Souzao grapes, an entirely Israeli invention – in fact, the only grape that has originated in Israel in modern times. It has been no secret that I have shown a marked lack of enthusiasm for this grape since its introduction some twenty years ago. Some people have yet to forgive me for writing when the grape was first unveiled that "Argaman has three major plusses – excellent color, excellent color and excellent color". I found then as I have over the years with the few varietal wines that have been released from this grape that Argaman lacked body, depth, aroma, flavor or charm.

Because I found the wine very closed at that first tasting, I obtained several other bottles to set aside, my plan being to taste one about a month from that tasting and then ever three-four months thereafter. The time had come and today's tasting included the wine. Before the tasting note, let it be said that (a) I find winemaker Avi Feldstein of Segal one of the most charming and pleasant people in the entire local wine industry; (b) I thoroughly enjoy Feldstein's desire to occasionally be playful and (c) that he makes some excellent wines. Despite all of which, unlike quite a few of my colleagues, I have a few problems with this wine, the tasting note for which follows.

Segal, Argaman, Rechasim, Dovev, 2006: Dark, literally impenetrable royal purple in color and medium- to full bodied, one might be tempted to think this wine was made entirely from Argaman grapes (a cross between Carignan and Souzao) but that is not quite the case. Argaman may boast fantastic depth of color but is, to be charitable, lacking in most other qualities (e.g. tannins, aroma or flavour), so to give this wine the "push" it needed, it was fermented on the skins of Merlot grapes and then aged in French and American oak, half of which was new, for 18 months. It might not be unfair to say that while we can credit the Argaman grapes for the wine's deep color, the tannins, flavours and acids came from the Merlot and the oak. Despite all of which, the spicy and smoky wood proves somewhat dominant, the tannins come out as just a bit chunky (i.e. country-style) and the plum and berry flavors prove jammy and perhaps just a bit too near-sweet. Interestingly, not a bad wine so much as it is a highly stylized wine that many may enjoy. My estimate is that this is not a wine meant for cellaring, its elements never coming together fully and perhaps destined to collapse within the next year or two. Worth trying a bottle to see if this is to your taste. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 85. K (Re-tasted 3 Dec 2008).

We prefer to zero in on "...not a bad wine...many may enjoy." That is already a quantum leap from Rogov's first thoughts on Argamon, viz: “Argaman: An Israeli-inspired cross between Souzao and Carignan grapes. Possibly best categorized as the great local wine failure, producing wines of no interest. Many of the vineyards that were planted with Argaman continue to be uprooted to make room for more serious varieties.”

Available in the UK from Panzer, London (£23.50 single bottle) and Yayin V'Simcha, Essex (£18.50 - case price per bottle).

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