Kitron Merlot Reserve 2006 review

Kitron Merlot Reserve 2006 Price: NIS 85



I picked up this bottle in a small wine shop in Machane Yehuda next to the white elephant shuk in rechov Agripas. Despite its diminutive size the shop is the only place where I have managed to find Har Odem Chardonnay in Yerushalayim. The shop owner asked me what my favourite wines were and then proceeded to recommend this bottle of Kitron. He assured me that I would love it.

I must admit that the label wouldn’t have particulary grabbed my attention and the (mostly) drivel written on the back label would have surely put me off.

Moreover, why do so many Israeli wineries think that smothering their label with gold is a good idea? It's reminds me of cheap dinner plates used in some simcha halls with the tacky gold rims around them. It is tasteless eye candy and the height of Kitschness! You are not impressing anyone and in fact doing yourselves a disservice by putting potential punters off.

A more sepecific criticism of the label is the use of gold, beige, brown and an antique sepia coloured photo of an old building surrounded by sand. Message transmitted? DRY, DRY, DRY, dusty and DRY. Is this really the message the winery intented? I'd hire a descent graphics artist if I were you mate! You might just shift a load more boxes.




A rough translation of the back label:


[The people of Israel say to Hashem] Come, my Beloved’s, let us go to the fields where my children serve You with desire, there let us dwell alongside the children of deniers (unbelievers/idol worshipers) who are blessed with plenty yet still deny. Let us wake at dawn in the vineyards [of prayer and study]. Let us see if the mandrakes [Torah students] have blossomed, and at the entrance are all manner of pleasant fruits [if students of Oral Law have blossomed, if ripened students have bloomed]; there I will display my finest products to You. Shir HaShirim 7:12-13

This wine is produced using pure Merlot grapes grown at high altitudes in the Judean and Galilee mountains. The unique combination of grape variety and the location of their growth create a wine rich in aroma and flavour. The grapes are handpicked and then put through a meticulous hand sorting process to ensure the wholeness of the grape cluster and preservation of natural elements in each grape.

Kitron combines the grape’s natural secrets, loving wine production and the joy of creation. In order to preserve the aroma of the fruit, the wine is aged for 14 months in French Oak barrels. This ensures an excellent wine experience.

Merlot 97%, Cabernet 3%
A limited series of 4600 bottles
79 Calories per 100 ml
Serve at 18 to 20 Celsius
Alcohol content 14%, 750 ml volume.
Product of Kitron Winery
Kosher for Pesach LeMahadren
http://www.kitrone.com/

The quote from Shir HaShirim, besides the obvious reference to vineyards (and being very difficult to translate) is rather enigmatic. I’m not sure what to make of it? I’m sure there is a story behind this choice of pasukim!

As you can see, the main section of the text does not contain any useful details at all. It is frankly meaningless waffle. Don’t they realise that any half serious wine lover would be irritated by this and cause him or her to seriously curtail their urge to purchase and try this wine out.

The bottom of the label informs us that the wine is actually 97% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. They don’t tell us why nor whether the Cabernet Sauvignon was blended at the same age as the Merlot, or previously aged.

The only other thing of note is the use of a quote from Gemara Meseches Megilla at the bottom of the front label. All this strongly suggests that the winery is run by religious Jews. I wanted to find out something about this winery. Right at the bottom there is an Internet Site URL but unfortunately the link is dead.

Googling brought up a Youtube video for “Meir Biton's Kitron Boutique winery”.





OK, so from the video we know that the owner is a Frum Jew and that the winery is near Natanya. We also see that they are drinking what looks like the very same wine I purchased. You also catch him saying that they add 3% Cabernet Sauvignon to it so that definitely sounds like our Merlot.

The next result on the Google list brought me to a forum post by the late Daniel Rogov who informs us that this petite boutique winery is situated on Kibbutz Ma’abarot near Chadera. The grapes they use are brought from the Upper Galil, Golan Heights and the Judea and Shomron region. Production for 2006 was only 14,000 bottles which increased to 25,000 by 2008. I intentionally avoided reading his tasting notes so as not to influence my own opinion when I came to drink it. I did however save the link to get back to it.

Hechshirim

1. OK America, HaRav M. Zamir
2. Emek Yizrael Local Rabbanut under the authority of the Chief Rabbi of Emek Yizrael.

Unusual this. You would have expected, especially from a religious winery, to have had some more "heavy weight" Israeli hechshirim. Just a hunch but maybe the winery owner intentionally avoids Chareidi hechshirim for ideological reasons. On the other hand, the winery could be producing on such a small level that the owner doesn't think it's worth spending the money on another kashrut certificate?

I popped this Merlot in our wine cooler and there it lay until last Friday afternoon where, out of a choice of three wines, my daughter decided to extract this one from the cabinet.

We left the bottle to warm up to room temperature while we went off to shul and opened it as soon as we returned, letting it breath for around 20 minutes. Both my eldest boys were in Yeshiva for this Shabbos so it was a rather intimate Shabbos table with just my eldest daughter, my youngest son and of course, my dear wife.

Nose and Colour:

I poured the wine and used my wife’s glass to examine it. The colour was classic Merlot. Holding the glass against the white Shabbos tablecloth I observed a dark but translucent black current Ribena colour. Putting the glass to my nose brought bold sweet wood notes plus black berries and spicy chocolate. I swirled the wine around the glass and returned it to my nose. Astonishing the difference a short swirling makes! Now I could really enjoy a magnificent and powerful explosion of wet ripe forest fruits, matured (but certainly not musky) ever so slightly “toasted” oak wood, spices and semi-sweet chocolate. There was a good body to this wine but it wasn’t stewed and heavy. I would describe it as confident. It was screaming out to me that it was ready to drink.

Tasting Notes:

Black Forrest berries served up with a wooden spoon. Chewing the wine revealed some blackberry jam on toast (no butter). You know, the “Light” jam without the extra sugar and packed with fruit flavour. There was something else there as well. Dried Chicory perhaps with a hint of unsweetened chocolate?

Finish was not as long lasting as I would have expected considering the firm body on this wine. Usually these two things go together. Nevertheless it was a true pleasure not to be bombarded by a blast of dry tannins at the end. This is a seriously smooth operator and ready to drink now. A gorgeous wine that’s perfect for Kiddush because it’s suitable to drink on an empty stomach without leaving your mouth feeling like you’ve just chewed on some wood shavings.

However, drinking this Merlot with some food was an even greater delight. For hors d'oeuvres we were eating my dear wife's delicious freshly baked wholemeal Challa along with Egg salad with spring onions and a delicious homemade style Chatzilim (aubergine or eggplant to my American friends) salad b’tam kaved (liver flavour) and of course a large fresh vegetable salad. Drinking with the food, you notice a lot more body and texture with more spice notes.

The aftertaste was now very satisfying and with absolutely no signs of dry tannins whatsoever. I must say that for a 2006 vintage, this Merlot is not as intense as one would have expected. This is not a criticism, simply a curious observation.

In summary, we all enjoyed this wine and would definitely buy it again. I’m excited to experience the winery’s other wines in the near future. I wish the winery a lot of success. It may be a small outfit but they really do seem to know what they are doing.

One suggestion though if you are reading this Meir Biton. I love the pasukim and quotes from gemara but please get rid of the nonsense waffle on your label and give us some useful information.




Side story.

The bottle quotes this gemara, daf Vav, amod aleph (6a) where it mentions the place called “Kitron”.


 
“Kitron zo Tzippori…hi eretz zavat chalav udevash”

As I mentioned earlier, my daughter just happened to choose this wine for this Friday night after the bottle had been lying in the wine cooler for some time.

I teach a gemara shiur every Motzei Shabbos. We are currently learning Meseches Megilla. That Motzei Shabbos we happened to be on the exact daf quoted on the bottle and learnt all about the nachala of Zevulin and this beautiful place called Kitron. I placed the bottle on the table while we learnt and drank up the words.


Coincidence? These things happen too many times to be coincidences. What message can be learnt from this incident? Perhaps that Torah learning is not ancient history but organic, alive and part of all of our everyday lives. That is, if you allow it to be so.

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