Bashan Carmon Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and Eitan Merlot 2007

Bashan Carmon Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Bashan Eitan Merlot 2007
The Bashan Organic Winery is situated at the entrance to the religious Moshav of Avneh Eitan in The Golan Heights.

As those of you who have read my blog post on Har Odem Winery (Odem Mountain Winery) will know, we spent a very enjoyable week in a Tzimer in Moshav Avnei  Eitan back in July 2011.
Although we visited many wineries we did not have the opportunity to speak to anyone at the Bashan Organic winery which was on our doorstep as every time we passed by the entrance it seemed to be closed. On the last day, we went for a walk through the Moshav and ended up at the winery. We walked up to the small visitor’s centre and peered through the window. It seemed to be uninhabited with wine bottles, some empty, some sealed, strewn about the place.

We wandered through the open air storage area with boxes and boxes of wine wrapped in cellophane Clingfilm on forklift truck wooden bases. The place was totally abandoned.  I’ve no idea if there were security cameras but we spent some time there and no one came out to speak to us.  What’s more, we never saw Bashan wines for sale, not in the local supermarkets or in the Moshav’s own Mekolet!

Breathing Time and Decanters
About a month ago I visited “Gefen”, the Wine shop in Givat Shaul. The shop is large, elegant and has an excellent stock. The staff seem friendly and knowledgeable. Prices seem very reasonable equalling or even beating the prices in Machaneh Yehuda market. After browsing the shelves for a while, a salesman approached and directed me to a shelf full of Bashan Organic wine. To tell the truth, I didn’t immediately make the connection between the winery at the entrance to the Moshav which we had driven passed every day for a week upon returning from our outings in and around the Golan Heights. It was only when I read on the label that the winery situated in Moshav Avneh Eitan that the penny dropped!
The bulk of the Bashan stock was made up of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot “Eitan” 2007 bottles, all at NIS 80 each but above them was a shelf with a few bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon Carmon 2006 at NIS 140 each. The salesman proceeded to praise the 2006 and even went as far as to say that it was currently his favourite wine! I told him that it was actually above my price range as I had decided not to review wines above NIS 120 due to readers writing in and complaining that I was reviewing wines beyond most people’s pockets. When I mentioned the word “Blog” he became very interested and wanted to know all about my wine Blog site.
After giving him a brief description of the blog site and informing him of my favourite wines I also mentioned that I don’t often review Cabernet Sauvignons as they contained too much harsh tannin which was not suitable for Kiddush on an empty stomach. He asked me how much time I give the wine to breath after opening and I replied that I gave all wines around 20 minutes breathing time.  He shook his head. I should give this Carmon Cabernet Sauvignon at least an hour to breath before drinking he informed me. Moreover, he suggested that I actually decanter the wine a few hours before drinking and directed me to some decanting gadget which the shop was selling. I politely declined purchasing it.
As I listened to his words I began to feel the sensation of dread in the pit of my stomach. Had I written negative reviews on wines which had simply needed more time to breathe than I had given them?
I was deep in thought when he woke me up by offering me a deal on these Bashan wines. So sure was he that I’d like the wines that he was willing to give me a bottle of Bashan Eitan Merlot 2007 for free if I purchased the Carmon 2006. He was sure I’d be impressed he told me. How could I say no to this? It worked out at NIS 70 a bottle! I agreed at once to purchase the Carmon and give it my honest opinion and yes, I would follow his instructions and decanter the wine.
A word or two about decanters

Decanters are used for various reasons. Many people think it adds class and elegance to place a crystal wine decanter on their table rather than a bottle. That’s probably why most people use a decanter. The size of most decanter is usually just over the volume of a standard 750ml bottle of wine but some meant for brandy or whisky or smaller and others, meant to hold more than one bottle are obviously larger.
Appearance aside, I was told that there are two practical reasons why one should decanter a wine. The first is if there is sediment in the bottle. By placing some type of filter (which will not affect the taste or aroma of the wine) over the mouth of the bottle or decanter, one can remove the sediment found in the bottom of the bottle which had not been filtered sufficiently. How much to filter and which method to use, (As already discussed in a previous post) is a matter of opinion and the subject of much debate.
The last reason is to allow the wine to breathe which is known in the wine world as “Aeration”. Some wine connoisseurs always decanter their wine in order to aerate them, that is, allow the wine to breathe slowly. Many experts believe that decanting wines is the equivalent of that swirling action which one does to a glass in order to release more of the fruity elements and aromas of the wine and at the same time, tone down the harsher elements such as tannins.
OK, so this was the plan of action. I’d open the bottle about three hours before we went to shul on Friday and pour the wine into a decanter. The decanter had sat in my cocktail cabinet with its crystal stopper on for over a year so I washed it out on Thursday evening and left it to dry naturally. The last thing I wanted to do was to pour a NIS 140 bottle of wine into a smelly musky decanter! Then, when we returned from shul, I would take the stopper off of the decanter and let it breath for around 20 minutes before pouring into the glasses.
Before I left, he gave me a glass of Tulip Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 to try. I was very impressed. More about this wine in my next review, beli neder.
Let’s talk about these wines.
The Labels

The first thing I want to say is how much I just love these label designs. What a shame the designer was not credited on the label because I’d really like to give him or her credit. This genius has managed to design something which seems at first glance to be simplistic yet expresses such a powerful charm. The painting of pebbles on an earthy black, wine red and pink background is so striking and effective, (at least in my eyes).  Strangely enough, I’ve spoken about the pebbly taste of Har Odem wines, (a few kilometres up road from Bashan) so I was looking forward to seeing if these Golan wines had a similar pebbly mineral water taste to them.
Teudat Hechshir:

OU Orthodox Union of America.
Local Certification by HaRav Ishai Shmuel, Rabbanut of Ramat HaGolan.
The other labels on the back state that this wine has been certified “Organic” by Agrior and “Tov HaSadeh”, another organisation for the promotion of Organic products in Israel.
What exactly does this Organic label mean?
The term refers to the grapes used to make the wine which were grown without the use of any artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. Every organic organisation has its own list of farming chemicals which they allow. The organisation sends inspectors to the winery who check the validity of the winery’s claim before issuing an Organic Certificate. Rather like a teudat kashrut authority actually.
As in America, organic products are the “in” thing at the moment in Israel with more and more demand for everything “organic”. It’s not just the small wineries who are getting in on the act. Even the large wineries now have their own “organic” ranges although few bother to seek organic certification as Bashan has done.
The Back Label

A rough translation follows:
Bashan Winery, Israel’s first ecological winery, presents the natural harmony between wine and environment.
The soil, the air and the water around us, like wine, live and breathe and at Bashan Winery we take care of them for future generations. Keeping with this ideal, Uri Rapp and the Dassa family, second generation wine-growers from France, founded the Bashan Winery.
The winery has 170 acres of vineyard cared for with bio-organic methods only.
The fermentation processes are completed using natural (vegetable) yeasts with minimal use of preservatives. All this is done with a focus on professionalism and uncompromising quality in all stages of the wine production.
Grape Types: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
The Vineyards: Bashan Vineyard, basaltic soil at an altitude of 450 meters.
Wood aging: 24 months in new oak barrels.

The wine is red/black in color, with aromas of concentrated fruit, berry jam and dried spices. The dominant flavor is of ripe black fruits.
The wine has well balanced acidity and a bouquet of coffee and mocha with a long fruity finish. It is suitable to accompany a cut of beef or aged cheeses. The wine will continue to age in the bottle for 3-4 years.

Eitan Merlot 2007

Grape Types: 89% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon
The Vineyards: Bashan Vineyard Upper Merlot, basaltic soil, 430 meter altitude.
Wood aging: 18 months in new and old oak barrels.

The wine is a vibrant burgundy color. The gentle and pleasant aromas are of ripe black fruits. The wine has flavors of ripe fruits with a bouquet of coffee, mocha and caramel. The finish is soft and precise. This wine is suitable to accompany pasta, meat and fish. The wine will continue to age in the bottle for 2-3 years.
All sounds very impressive. Let’s see what the family thinks of it.
Tasting Notes for the Bashan Carmon Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
I decantered the bottle of Carmon about two hours before Hadlikas Neros (Shabbos Candle lighting time), about three and a bit hours before drinking.

You know, there is something to the notion that a decanter on the table adds to the elegance of the occasion. Coming home from shul, everyone commented on how fine the table looked with the decanter beside the covered chollos.

Upon pouring the wine I took note of the very typical and appetising Cabernet Sauvignon dark blacky red colour. Using the decanter to pour the Carmon into the glasses was a pleasing experience. Bringing the wine to my nose I could detect the aroma of forest fruit and something like cardboard. It wasn’t spicy, musky, woody or nutty. It was similar to the smell of large cardboard boxes.
Kiddush recited, I sat and drank. There was a mixture of pleasant fruit and some kind of stale spice. Something dry that had lost its flavour. There was no particular fruit which came through so I’ll just say a lightly flavoured forest fruit cocktail. To sum up, even though the wine had a medium body weight, there wasn’t much flavour there. One word sums it up. Bland!
Conclusion: It is a bit of chutzpa selling this bland wine at NIS 140. I wonder if it would have tasted any better had I opened the bottle 20 minutes before instead of decanting? I suspect not. Perhaps it would have been even worse because it could be that I allowed that unpleasant cardboard note to dissipate somewhat in the decanter.
Brief notes on the Bashan Eitan Merlot 2007
We drank the rest with our hors d'oeuvres and the Carmon did not improve. We decided to open the Eitan Merlot 2007. We let it breathe for around 10 minutes before serving. The general conclusion amongst all of us was that this was much better! The Merlot is a better balanced wine.
The aroma is of black currents and dried spices. Taste was positive with firm but not rough tannins and a medium body weight. Notes of black currents and red apples with dried cloves. Quite a pleasant wine but nothing “Mahehu Mashehu”.
Final Words
All in all, we were not particularly impressed with these two bottles of Bashan and unless I receive a firm recommendation of a particular wine I don’t think we will be buying another Bashan any time soon.
Nice labels, shame about the wine.
To decanter or not to decanter?
Lastly, the jewry is still out regarding this whole business of decanting. My fear is that I might decanter a bottle that had I opened it 20 minutes before, would have tasted of silky smooth tannins but decanting this wine will destroy some of the flavour and freshness. However, maybe for some other wines (I can think of the Hevron Heights Merlot for example), maybe decanting would have improved the taste.


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