Shiloh “Port” style “Single Cask Cabernet Franc” Fortified Wine

As promised, here is a review and tasting notes for the:




Shiloh “Port” style “Single Cask Cabernet Franc” fortified wine.


Bottled at a respectable 18% abv. Price is NIS 79 while stocks last.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I hate sweet wines with a passion, so why am I reviewing a heavy sweet port?

Well, it's true that I do not drink regular sweet wine. This is mainly for three reasons.

1. Health Reasons

Drinking sweet wines is unnecessary calories and raises blood sugar levels and so for Diabetics, they are absolute poison. Dry wine is actually good for you as part of a controlled diet in moderation and can actually lower glucose levels.

2. Halacha – Jewish Law

So many Jews unfortunately still have this narishkite (silly notion) in their heads that they must say Friday night Kiddush over what they think is “traditional” so called “Kiddush wine”, (that is, sweet sickly sugary wine), even though many actually prefer dry wine and even though many actually dislike sweet wine and will force themselves to drink it - and will then go on to open their preferred wine, a lovely bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir for the seuda (Shabbos Meal) to drink with their food. What a busha! (Terrible shame).

To those who say that, despite the health warnings they actually enjoy drinking a large glass of sweet syrupy wine for Kiddush let me say this:

Drinking Sweet “Kiddush Wine” actually perpetuates an ancient anti-Semitic decree!





Before the destruction of the Temple and exile of the Jewish people, the Land Of Israel was famous throughout the world for its wine. This is confirmed by many Mishniyot that describe our national wine industry as well as the remains of hundreds of ancient wineries found throughout the Land of Israel.






The knowledge of making good kosher wine was lost however when we were sent into Exile.

In almost every foreign country, the non-Jews issued a decree that Jews were forbidden from owning land or even being partners with a gentile in having a share in a field. Consequently, the Jewish community was forced to buy grapes from the local food markets in order to make kosher wine. These grapes were of course of the eating variety and not meant for wine making. To try and compensate for the poor quality grapes that produced bitter wine, the kosher wine maker was forced to add a lot of sugar. This is how we came to associate kosher wines with sweet alcoholic syrup even though its halachic suitability for Kiddush was a minority opinion. There was simply no other choice.

Baruch Hashem, Today’s kosher wines however are ranked amongst the best in the world with Israeli wines frequently winning medals in International competitions. Therefore, it would seem to me to be a shame to continue using sweet syrupy wine for the mitzvot as doing so actually perpetuates this ancient anti-Semitic decree.






Despite this all too common historic misconception that the wine used for Kiddush has to be performed with these bottles of sweet alcoholic syrup, in fact the Shulchan Aruch informs us that it is dafka preferable to use good quality unsweetened wine for all mitzvot involving wine.

The Gemara teaches us that sweetened wine was unsuitable for use in the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) service and as todays mitzvot involving wine are a reminder and a kind of a temporary replacement or stopgap for these Temple practices, the wine we use for today’s mitzvot ought to meet the same requirements. [See OC272:8, MB272(21), MB472:(40) He should choose unsweetened wine over other types. See TB Menachot 86b-87a – Sweet wine is unfit for pouring over the Mizbeiyach.]

3. I don’t like the taste of sweet wine!

Well, the first two reasons are definitely correct but the third is only partially so because I believe that there is a time and a place to drink sweet red wine or at least fortified wine (which is almost always sweet), but only at the end of a meal and in place of a sweet desert. I think it is actually healthier and for me, much more satisfying to spend time sipping and enjoying a good fortified wine rather than to gulp down some chocolate cake or sugary ice cream. The truth is I very rarely drink this kind of wine but can understand and appreciate why someone would.

So why am I reviewing a Port style wine?

Well, if you have already read my earlier review on a Kentucky Straight Bourbon then you will know that I reviewed that in order to see if one can identify those classic Bourbon flavours in the Single Malt Whisky having been matured in casks previously used to mature Bourbon. We concluded that in fact you certainly could!

So, now we need to try the same experiment with Fortified wine to see if we can identify its classic flavour characters in whisky having been matured in these Port/Sherry/wine casks.

So, what is Port/Sherry/Fortified Wine?

Fortified wine is regular wine made from fermented grape juice but then married with and “fortified” with distilled grape based spirit (known by the generic term “brandy”). The fermenting process can never produce a wine of usually more than 15-16% abv (alcohol by volume) whereas the distillation process can produce much higher alcohol volumes. Consequently, the alcohol content of fortified wine can be anywhere from around 15.5 abv up to as much as 22 abv producing a very robust liquid that was traditionally diluted and drank by soldiers at war when clean water was unavailable. It was also used on the battle field to clean wounds as it acts as an antiseptic and mild aesthetic.

The most well known fortified wine is Sherry. Sherry/Xeres (Jerez) is made from varieties of white Spanish grapes (usually Palomino grapes) produced in the region of southern Spain, an area known as “The Sherry Triangle”. Maturation in casks uses the Soleras technique which blends different casks of ascending age to produce a balanced blend.




Some more popular Sherry types commonly used for maturing whisky


Name
Country/Region
Flavours
Oloroso Xeres
Jerez region of Southern Spain
Brown sugar, sultanas, walnuts, prunes, stewed apple, Xmas cake
Pedro Ximénez (PX)
All over Spain
Dark raisins, dates, figs, molasses treacle. Sometimes Liquorice.
Madeira
The Madeira islands
Ripe Peaches, Hazelnuts, Glazed Oranges, Candied Citrus Peel, Burnt caramelised Sugar.
 
Port (Vinho do Porto)
Portugal
Heavy syrupy fortified wine flavours of Ripe figs, plums and red berries, dark chocolate.
 


 As can be seen from the above table, each has its own unique list of flavours and character. A wine connoisseur would certainly be able to identify each type of fortified wine in a blind tasting test.

Of more interest is the fact that a Whisky Cask expert would be able to identify the fortified wine type in a blind tasting test by tasting a whisky matured in a cask previously containing a particular fortified wine. [Email correspondence with Whisky Cask Expert, Robert Fleming of Angus Dundee].

"You will not be able to identify sherry in whisky unless you know what sherry tastes like!"

This statement might seem blindingly obvious to some but it seems, for many, it is not! Indeed, I have come across quite a few experienced whisky drinkers at a typical Shabbos Kiddush in shul, who vehemently insist that you cannot taste sherry or port in whisky but simply a vague fruity sweetness even in heavy sherry monsters like Glendronach, Macallan and Dalmore. I whereupon ask them whether they have actually tasted Sherry or Port in their lives before and the answer is invariably no!

It is however hardly surprising that most Orthodox Jews have never tasted Sherry or Port before as you can count the number of kosher Ports and Sherries on the fingers of one hand, and still have enough digits left to play "Chopsticks" on the piano!



No wonder that most Orthodox Jews would not be able to identify Sherry or Port in whisky even if someone had actually poured half a bottle of [kosher] Port in the bottle!!!





Genuine Kosher Ports and Sherries

Doing a "Google", I found only two genuine kosher Ports from Portugal, both from the same winery (this doesn’t include cooking Ports. Only drinking ones !!!!)

Porto Cordovero Fine Ruby Port and Porto Cordovero Vintage, Alc/Vol: 20%, Region: Portugal.

Both are described as a blend of sweet red ports under OU Kashrut supervision.






As for kosher genuine sherries from Spain, (the drinking, not cooking types) I only found one!

Tio Pepe Jerez Xeres Sherry Palomino Fino Kosher, Spain.






Israeli Port Style Fortified Wines






There are however quite a few Israeli “Port” style fortified wines on the market which have been winning awards on the international stage so one can assume from this that they are up there with the best of the non-kosher wines.

In order to write this post I walked to my favourite wine shop in Machane Yehuda and asked the wine expert there for a good example of a Fortified wine for me to review.

He recommended the Adir Port Style, the Tura “Portura”- Sweet Port-style dessert wine, the Gvaot Port Style "Gofna Reserve Fortified NV" and then he showed me his personal favourite, something which he said was extra special.

This "Port" was the first release by the Shiloh winery, he explained. A single cask of wine and really only an experiment, he continued. Unusually for Israeli port style wines, this one he told me, was in the traditional Portuguese dry port style, far less sweet with more natural fruity flavours. He had received a few bottles and was selling them for NIS 80. Despite there being much more expensive Israeli Fortified wines, this in his opinion was one of the best. Well, I was sold already!





He showed me a bottle rapped entirely in tissue paper. When I opened up the tissue paper I found a blank bottle with no label inside. There was however a familiar black and red Shiloh “Shor” seal covering the cork. The tissue paper was being held together by a sticky label written entirely in Hebrew which informed us that the bottle was a “Yayin Kinouch Adom be Signon Port” – “A fortified wine - Port Style”. I carefully cut out the sticker from the paper and selotaped it to the bottle.

The label further informed us that this fortified wine was made from their dry red Organic Cabernet Franc grapes and bottled at a respectable (for a port) 18% abv.

It has a single Teudat Kashrut by the local Binyamin region Rabbanut. It is hardly surprising the wine did not have a more prominent teudat hechshir seeing as this is a VERY limited edition single cask.

To the left of the certification seal it read “Kasher LeMahedrin for Pesach and all year round, Lo Mevushal, not any doubt of Orlah, Shevel or Shviit. Terumah and Maaseh already taken according to Halachah. The bracha was Borei Peri HaGefen, also for those who follow Maran HaBeit Yosef”. All good stuff!


So let’s find out what a Port tastes like.

As mentioned above, I was recommended this as it is considered an exceptional example of the Israeli Port Style genre and a unique example of a dryer style port.

In addition, the flavour notes should be more readily identifiable and clear seeing as this "Port" has come from a single cask and is not a blend of different casks and grapes which will blur the flavour notes.

Pouring the Shiloh into a sherry glass, gently swirling the wine a few times and holding the glass up to the light, I noticed a familiar sign of high alcohol level, that is, long legs sticking to the inside of the glass and trickling slowly back down again, very reminiscent of whisky of course. This is obviously no regular wine! This liquid has a high viscosity level like a high fat cream you pour over dessert.



The colour of this wine is simply glorious. Within the deep blackness of this liquid are various shades of red from bright scarlet to deep crimson, from plum juice to cherry juice, to raspberry juice. Simply beautiful.

On the Nose:

Putting the glass to your nose you get a copious concentration of dark fruity aromas. Freshly stewed prunes, honey figs, cherries in syrup, fresh blackcurrant juice and slight liquorice notes.

You may think I’m meshugah, after all, this is only 18% abv, but I nevertheless added a single drop, perhaps a quarter of a teaspoon of water to see if it made any difference - and you know, it really did! Underneath all those luscious heavy sweet stewed raisins was some honey and vanilla ice cream, mild sweet spices and some sweet cocoa and soft gooey pastries like little chocolate and vanilla yeast cakes.

As much as I was enjoying smelling this wine, the time has come to taste.

Tasting:


As expected, the Shiloh wine has a lavishly fulsome mouth feel with lashings of sticky prunes, dried figs dripping with honey, plump dark raisins, vanilla oak, Vanilla ice cream and cherry filled chocolates. If this is called dry, then I certainly don’t want to try the sweet ports!

Finish is long, sweet and leaves the mouth full of stewed figs and raisins and some dry roasted almonds in the background.

This is a lovely way to end the Seudat Mitzvah on Friday night. As well as sipping it, I would imagine it would be splendid poured over some vanilla ice cream….yummy.


Single Malt Whisky matured is Ex-Sherry/Ex-Port Casks

Unlike my review of the Kentucky Straight Bourbon which I followed up with two reviews of Ex-Bourbon matured single malts, I cannot for obvious reasons do the same thing so easily with Port and Sherry matured single malts. Taking advantage of a relative who is visiting us from England, I almost did order the Tomintoul 14-Year-Old Kosher Portwood (certified OU), especially for this blog post. It would have been the perfect way to end the post to see how many of those Port flavour characters I could recognise in the whisky.






In the end though I decided to purchase the now discontinued and delicious Bruichladdich 16-Year-Old at a great price. I reached the decision that whisky is simply too expensive to buy for a one off experiment, bearing in mind that this obviously ultra-sweet Tomintoul would not exactly be my preferred whisky to drink after this review has been done and dusted. Instead, I've decided to do the next best thing and quote from some whisky reviewers who I trust for their flavour notes of some sherry and port matured single malts.

For comparison, let’s list my flavour notes here in summery:

Shiloh Port Style Wine Flavour Notes



On the nose:  Dark fruits, Prunes (dried plums), Figs, cherries, Blackcurrant, Liquorice, Raisins, Vanilla, Mild sweet spices, Cocoa, Sweet Pastries, Chocolate and vanilla yeast cakes.

Taste: Fulsome mouth feel, Red Black Fruits, Prunes (plums), Figs, Dark Raisins, Vanilla oak, Vanilla ice cream, Cherries, Chocolates, Roasted Almonds.

Now let's look at four reviews of some “Heavy Port Monsters”, that is, single malt whiskies having been matured wholly or finished in fresh wet 1st fill Port casks and let’s see if we can recognise any port influence in the flavour of these whiskies.

From “Whisky Wednesday” Youtube reviews

1. Tomintoul 12-Year-Old Portwoodhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byF4JSCW7N8

On the nose: Soft fruits, A lot of sweet fruitiness, Raspberry Ripple ice cream, Strawberries and cream, Slight spiciness, Amoretto, Vanilla, Almonds, Soft and floral, Lovely aromas of fruit.

Taste: Lovely creamy mouth full. Sweet fruit driven, strawberry honeysuckle, fruity thick. Finish is short with fruit and maltiness. Fruity, sweet, gentle.

2. Glencadam 12-Year-Old Portwood
Ex-Bourbon matured but finished in Ex-Port pipes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq_0YDRsM2o

On the nose: Fruity. A lot of Fruitiness, Raw apple and plum crumble, Unripe tart plums. Definite notes of plums. Vanilla. Sweet woodiness. Raspberries, plums, soft spiciness, sweet fruitiness.

Taste: Mouth fill heavier than the average Glencadam. Plums, Raspberry and other heavy fruits. Slight Chocolate note. Spice. Cranberries. Cocoa powder. Malty sweetness. Fruity Toffee. Lots of mouth fill. Good finish. Dry and fruity.

3. Benromach Origins Peated Batch 4 Port Pipeshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCYChOpHWTo

On the nose: Saltiness. Liquorice Vinto. Plums. Really overripe Strawberries. A lot of fruitiness. Vanilla. Cherry. Spiciness.

Taste: A lot of fruity sweetness. Roast Hazelnuts, Chestnuts. Chocolate sweetness. Really chocolaty. Lots of cherries. Lots of Strawberries.Blackcurrants. Finish of Port influence, Blackberries. Lots and lots of Sweet fruitiness but slightly dry finish.

From a Ralfystuff.com Youtube review

4. Longrow Red 11-Year-Old Peated Port Caskshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsQh13mGMV4

On the nose: Fresh fruit, dried fruit, gummy fruit, marmalade. Red fruit conserve, cranberries, cherry, raspberry. Red fruits. Syrupy sweet fruit notes. Fresh fruity port.

Ralfy would guess by the taste that the whisky has been matured in Portuguese Tawny Port casks? Spicy, Vanilla oil. Floral note.

Taste: Red cherry stone, maraschino cherries, brown sugar, aromatic spices, coriander. Sweet fruity arrival. Burnt sugar. Nuts, walnuts, glazed sugar charcoal.

Conclusion:

I think you will agree that my tasting notes for the Shiloh Cabernet Franc Port Style wine and the tasting notes of these four Port cask matured single malt whisky reviews, by two different independent whisky reviewers, show a remarkable resemblance and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can clearly identify the entire range of Port flavour characters in these single malt whiskies.

Moreover, it would seem to me that a Sherry/Port connoisseur and Whisky expert, such as Ralfy from Ralfystuff.com, would be able to actually identify the precise port or sherry which had been maturing in the casks, prior to the whisky being matured in them, by simply tasting the single malt whisky.

Just to be clear: I want to stress again that we have not been discussing here the more commonly found so called Ex-Sherry matured whisky, having been matured in 2nd or even 3rd Fill Ex-Sherry casks, meaning that the cask had previously contained whisky and only before that, sherry, thus rendering any residual sherry flavour influence almost negligible. What we are exclusively talking about here, is whisky matured in wet, fresh, active 1st Fill sherry and port casks.

If like me, you are a religious Jew, then you should be as concerned as I am over the above findings, because being able to directly identify the wine type in the whisky by its taste has profound halachic implications regarding the question as to whether, despite opinions to the contrary, it could in fact be forbidden to drink these heavy sherry monsters?

However, this touchy controversial subject will have to wait for another blog post. For now, I hope I have given you sufficient food for thought…

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