A Better Way To Arrange Wines


Reviews of the Le Mourre de l’Isle 2010,  Glenmorangie Signet and Ealanta along with a look at the new Ardbeg release: “Ardbog.”


By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon


Washington Jewish Week  May 22, 2013


Walk into many wine stores and you will see the bottles organized by country of origin. Occasionally this will be further subdivided by varietal or, more commonly, by the color of the wine. Since many European winemaking countries refrain from listing the types of grapes utilized on the label, the result is that the Cabernet Sauvignon-based Bordeaux may be sharing space with Pinot Noir from Burgundy which is next to a bunch of red Rhones containing Syrah.

There is likely a very sound underlying marketing rationale for this arrangement. It is a useful system for those who have an idea of what they want to drink or, perhaps more significantly, for the wines they want to avoid. But for those uninitiated into the intricacies of regional winemaking regulations, it really isn’t very helpful and adds to both confusion and the intimidation factor.

In the absence of knowledgeable staff that can assist in making an appropriate selection, it would seem to make more sense to arrange wines based upon their taste profile rather than grouping them by country. Categories such as “big and bold,” and “light and fruity” become more valuable than “Spain” and “South Africa.” Even within a varietal, there are significant variations that could be identified on the shelves that would lead to more willingness by the consumer to try something unfamiliar. The wine-lover, winery and retailer would all benefit.

This would be very valuable for kosher wines since they are often relegated to a shelf that is scrupulously avoided by most non-Jewish consumers. An example is the Le Mourre de l’Isle 2010 ($20), a delicious Rhone blend from Vignobles David. Comprised of 60 percent syrah, 30 percent grenache and 10 percent mourvedre, it opens with earthy, coffee, spice and dark fruit aromas that expand and persist along with complex layers of blackberries, currants, raspberries, clove and black pepper. The flavors, medium tannins, balance and lengthy finish make this worthy of a prominent position among a shelf containing similar wines.

Spirits-wise, we thought we’d spend some time again with the whiskies from the folks at Moet Hennessy USA, the American wing of parent company LVMH or Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton S.A. Among many other brands and luxury products, they own the Glenmorangie and Ardbeg Scotch whisky distilleries.

The folks at Glenmorangie have been very busy. First, they have a new whisky from their limited “Private Edition” range. Last year was their “Artein,” which we greatly enjoyed, and the year before that was their peated “Finealta“, which – big surprise – we also really, really liked. This year, Glenmorangie has pushed out the 19-year-old “Ealanta” aged in new (or virgin) oak from Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest. Ealanta, we are informed, is Scots Gaelic for “skilled and ingenious.” We aren’t convinced that it’s worth the money, but it’s pretty good. We also recently retasted an old experimental favorite that became part of the regular line-up, the Glenmorangie Signet – every bit as good as we remembered, and much more worth the lamentably high price tag.

From LVMH’s Ardbeg Distillery, from the Scottish Isle of Islay, comes their newest release in their “limited edition” range, the ArdbegArdbog” – named in reference to the famed peat bogs on Islay from which peat is cut, dried, and used to malt the barley and thereby add that distinctive, characteristic peaty quality to whisky. We’ve yet to have a bad Ardbeg. So, without further ado, here are our tasting notes:

Glenmorangie Signet, Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (46 percent abv; $200): huge and delicious. The Signet has lovely, complex notes of malt and chocolate. The wood is very much present, but plays nicely with this oily, hefty dram, creating something almost like a marmalade bitter sweetness on the tongue. Try it first neat, and give it 20 minutes to breathe – the nose is just out of this world with additional notes of orange zest, nutmeg, oiled leather, ground coffee, and honey. Tastes super with ice, too, though we don’t especially recommend drinking much of it with ice – the cold inhibits aspects of it, allowing other bits of the taste profile to shine through. A stunning joyride, with a fine contemplative dimension.

Glenmorangie Ealanta, Private Edition, 19 year old, Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (46 percent abv; $120): This whisky features aromatic notes of honey, custard, nutmeg, cinnamon, baked apple, caramel, and oak. The soft, creamy, and oily palate offers flavors of nuts, hot spice, vanilla, candied orange peel, green apple, some tropical fruit and some underlying sweetness, finishing with more vanilla, cinnamon and some drying oak tannin. This frankly tastes more like a hybrid of Glenmorangie Scotch and aged bourbon, and seems not altogether in harmony, but is nonetheless very rewarding and enjoyable. If obtainable under $100, we’d be a lot more enthusiastic – but for those happy to spend on something new and interesting, this is a great option.

Ardbeg “Ardbog”, Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (52.1 percent abv; $125): A marriage of 10-year-old Ardbeg aged in used bourbon casks with a 10-year-old Ardbeg aged in used Manzanilla sherry casks, this wonderful, oily, earthy, peaty whisky offers aromas and flavors of peat, honey, butterscotch, creme brulee, citrus, oak, coffee, almonds, cinnamon spice and creamy vanilla, with a lovely, lingering finish of peat and salted caramel. A great, if expensive, Ardbeg. L’chaim!

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