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WTN / WineAdvisor: Boundary-crossing Barbera

by Robin Garr » Wed Apr 26, 2006 5:15 pm

Boundary-crossing Barbera

The label says Barbera, and the producer's vowel-ending family name might contribute to the impression that the heavy green bottle contains an Italian wine. A taste reinforces this supposition: The Italian grape makes a fine, sturdy and mouth-wateringly acidic red that goes great with a hearty dish sauced with a meat-and-tomato "gravy."

But you've got to flip the atlas over to a different page in the "I" section to find this wine's actual home: A recent arrival in the U.S. and other Western markets, the wines of Recanati Winery in general - and its appealing 2004 Barbera in particular - are among the most impressive wines I've tried from Israel.

Israel remains a relatively minor player on the world wine scene, but it's growing fast. According to material supplied by Palm Bay Imports of Boca Raton, Fla., a recent RCNielsen market study showed Israel as the third fastest-growing wine region in U.S. sales, trailing only New Zealand and South Africa in its rate of increase during the 12-week period ending last Feb. 11. With wines like Recanati's coming into the market, this trend seems likely to continue.

The Recanati family name sounds Italian because it is Italian, by the way. Winery owner Lenny Recanati's family came to Israel from Italy in the early 1900s; he's a leading Israeli banker and financier, and the winery is now the country's sixth-largest. Rounding out the firm's international profile, wine maker Lewis Pasco is American-born, a University of California/Davis wine-making grad and trained chef, who worked at Napa's Chimney Rock and Sonoma's Marimar Torres and cooked at restaurants in San Francisco and New York City before moving to Israel.

Recanati wines are now available in the Italy, France, Germany, the U.K. and Japan as well as Israel and the U.S. Palm Bay brings in a range of eight wines, representing a range of international varieties, from a 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ($12.50 suggested retail) to a 2002 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($22). The wines are made kosher for Passover, but like bagels and latkes, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy them. I'll report on a few more of these wines in coming weeks.

<table border="0" align="right" width="145"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/reca0425.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Recanati 2004 Galilee Barbera ($15)

Very dark purple, almost black; garnet at the edge. Black cherries and berries and a whiff of spice. Fresh and juicy fruit shaped by tart acidity; good sour-cherry tang in a long finish. A bit on the "international" side, it speaks of fruit more than the soil, but there's a distinct Italian accent in the snappy, food-friendly balance of acidity and fruit. U.S. importer: Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla. (April 25, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: Its Italianate style made this wine a fine match with a quick, light variation on Italian-American meat and tomato "gravy" over fettuccine.

VALUE: A fine value in the mid-teens, and "street" prices may undercut this manufacturer's suggested retail.

WHEN TO DRINK: Like its Italian cousin, this Barbera is fine for early drinking but should hold up well for at least a few years. No rush to drink it.

PRONUNCIATION:
Barbera = "Bar-BARE-ah"

WEB LINK:
The winery Website appears to be information-packed, but it's all in Hebrew.
For English-language information, see the U.S. importer's Website

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Look up prices and locate sources for Recanati on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Boundary-crossing Barbera

by lewis.pasco » Fri May 05, 2006 9:07 pm

Hello Robin,

Thanks for the lovely tasting note. You have described the wine precisely as I hoped one would see it. I am Recanti Winery's winemaker, and would like to add a few details about the wine and the winery.

Recanati is a new producer in Israel, having been established and producing wine since 2000. We produce dry wines - 40,000 cases annually, which is mid sized by Israeli standards. Roughly 85% of our production is red wines. Our goal is to produce varietal wines that express their fruit in a classical and food friendly way, that grace the dinner table with ease, and that give the consumer fine value. The majority of our vineyards are in Israel's upper Galilee, near Lebanon, and situated at 700-800 meters altitude, where the climate is similar to mid-upper portions of the Napa Valley. The soils of our vineyards range from volcanic to alluvial red sandy loam, often with limestone subsoils.

The 2004 was our second vintage of Barbera. About 500 cases of it were produced, from a single vineyard at 750 m altitude adjacent to the Lebanon border at Kibbutz Manara. The Zinfandel component is 10%, from the same vineyard. To respect the classical methods of Piemontese Barbera, we age the wine in 2 year old French oak casks for eight or nine months only, so the wine has minimal overt woody flavors.

In the past 2 weeks the wine has been twice recognized in international competitions. It recieved a "Gran menzione" at the Verona Fair (Vinitaly), the only non-Italian Barbera to do so. It also garnered a bronze medal at the Challenge International du Vin in Bordeaux.

Should you have any questions, I remain at your disposal.

Be well,
Lewis Pasco, Winemaker, Recanati Winery, Israel
Life is too short to drink bad wine.
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Boundary-crossing Barbera

by Agostino Berti » Fri May 05, 2006 9:39 pm

Thank you for chiming in. It is not often that we have a wine's maker responding to a post.

My question is: What made you choose Barbera , since its not exactly a hot international grape variety.

My other question is : the altitude seems quite high, what is the average temperature in June, July , August and when do you pick the grapes?

My last question: Is there an indigenous variety in the area?

Thanks,
Agostino
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Boundary-crossing Barbera

by Robin Garr » Fri May 05, 2006 9:57 pm

Should you have any questions, I remain at your disposal.


Lewis, thanks for chiming in! As Ago says, it's a special delight to have a wine maker comment on his own wine. I have quite a few more Recanati wines on the tasting queue and look forward to trying more of them soon.
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Boundary-crossing Barbera

by lewis.pasco » Mon May 08, 2006 6:10 pm

Robin,

I hope the other wines in Recanati's portfolio give you as much pleasure as our Barbera has. In any case, I look forward to your tasting notes as it's always good to "see" one's wine through someone else eyes (and nose and palate).

Ago,

(I take the liberty of Robin's shorthand). I would love to take credit for planting the Barbera, but it was in fact planted for another winery that was absorbed by a larger winery that wasn't interested in the rights to the vineyard. The vineyard is primarily planted to Merlot and Chardonnay, with small pilot plots of Cabernet, Pinot, Shiraz, Zinfandel and Barbera. We were most anxious to acquire the Merlot and Chardonnay, but I also convinced our GM at that time that we could produce a good varietal Barbera, from my experince making Barbera in California, and from my knowledge of Barbera's performance in the Sierra Foothills region there, also at elevation.

The fact that Barbera is not "internationally hot" didn't worry me as I am somewhat of a classicist by nature. We see wine as a natural partner to food, and not every meal demands Cabernet, Merlot, or some other more glamorous varietal. Its a very small (quantity) product - about 500 cases anually, and I felt that if we make it well and offer it at a fair price we could sell most of it to Italian Restaurants alone. If the reputation of the wine grows and we need more, we'll plant more of it, in the same region, or maybe somewhere a bit warmer (lower elevation).

I think the elevation is good for Barbera because the vineyard has cool and long nights, which enables us to get really nice classical (Piemontese)Barbera characteristics - ripe red cherries aromas, low tannins, bright acidity and intense color. I ripens pretty late up there, usually Oct 5-15, and wouldn't ripen at all if we didn't limit crop, as Barbera is characteristically a heavy yielding vine. By limiting it to 4 tons/acre, we seem to be doing ok.

Last week I reviewed the vineyard for the first time this year personally, and told the vineyard manager he would have to thin out the crop ('green pruning'). Earlier today he told me the job was finished, and next week I'll reveiw it again.

I hope I'll get some feedback from anyone (here) who tries the wine.

Lewis
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