A review of the Gvaot Gofna Chardonnay-Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and Grand Old Parr 12 year old De Luxe Scotch Whisky.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week May 2, 2012
Integral to Jewish belief and religious practice is the concept of separation. Many objects, certain behaviors and even time itself are differentiated as either holy or secular and mundane. The dietary laws exclude certain foods, while demanding that some foods first be elevated from mundane to holy before they may be consumed.
Jewish law also separates milk and meat, from which Kabbalists derive a dynamic to separate life (milk) from death (meat) so as to avoid a spiritual clash. Other separation-type regulations are agricultural, such as the prohibition against mixing seeds in a vineyard or the grafting of different species of trees and vegetables, hybridization of domestic and wild animals, or plowing or driving with domestic or nondomestic animals of different species. Some defy categorization like the rule proscribing a mixture of linen and wool.
Fortunately there are no rules that forbid the vinification and mixing of different types of grapes. Blending varietals is a standard approach in winemaking and has been practiced in regions like Bordeaux for centuries. This gives the winemaker the ability to highlight the best characteristics of different grapes to produce a harmonious final product. Even wines that have only one grape listed on the label often have small amounts of other varieties mixed in to provide more body, aromas and flavors.
Blending also stimulates a sense of vinicultural adventure. Founded in 2005 by Shivi Drori and Amnon Weiss, Gvaot Winery is located in Israel’s Shomron region and produces 20,000 bottles annually. A unique blend of 80 percent chardonnay and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, the Gvaot Gofna Chardonnay-Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is surprisingly successful. Full-bodied with tropical fruit aromas it shows a wide flavor profile including stone fruits, red berries and citrus touched gently with cedar and some spice with a bright finish. Out of the ordinary and certainly conversation-stimulating, serve it with chicken and other light summer fare.
Of course, the art of blending is as essential to making tea and cigars as it is to the wines of Bordeaux or Champagne. Blending is also fundamental to the whisky industry. In Scotch whisky, for example, blended whisky accounts for 92 percent of global Scotch sales or 82 million cases annually. That staggering figure alone suggests that at least some of this ocean of blended whisky is worth drinking, sales figures are hard to argue with.
To put it another way, the proverbial customer is always right – even if thoroughly sozzled on cheap, blended whisky. By cheap we mean simply relatively inexpensive, rather than “cheap.” Though, frankly, it isn’t all so cheap these days either.
Take, for example, the Johnnie Walker “Blue Label” ($200) or the Chivas Regal “Royal Salute” 21-year-old Scotch Whisky ($220). Both are excellent blended whiskies designed for high-end consumption, but more interesting whisky can be had for much, much less.
At the mid-range of the price spectrum, consider the harder-to-find but well-worth-seeking-out Grand Old Parr 12 year old De Luxe Scotch Whisky (40 percent abv; $30): a lovely light and crisp, bordering on flinty, yet mouthwatering whisky that offers aromas and flavors of malted barley, honeyed cereal grains, toasted nuts, java, buttered white bread toast, soft fruity notes, very gentle wafts of smoke with a long, heavy and complex finish of delicate black pepper, mocha and the slightest hint of smoke. Grand Old Parr is named for Thomas Parr, said to be Britain’s oldest man when he died in 1635 at the reported age of 152 (he is buried in Westminster Abbey, London). Grand Old Parr is also a huge seller in Japan, where it was first introduced soon after its creation in 1909. L’Chaim!