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Abarbanel is Back with Solid and Affordable Wines in Time for the HolidaysSeptember 29th 2016
As the High Holidays roll around, we find ourselves planning large meals and needing plenty of wine to accompany them. As a fan of Abarbanel's small portfolio of wines, I was pleased to hear that we can expect three new French releases in time for the holidays.
For those not already familiar, Howard Abarbanel retired from the wine business back in 2010. Although he maintained the Abarbanel brand itself, it was being licensed and run by Admiral Imports until Admiral's bankruptcy and collapse. So Howard Abarbanel decided to jump back into the driver's seat, and has been tirelessly rebuilding his brand, which is now imported and distributed by Faropian Spirits, ltd.
Since his return, Abarbanel has released one solid wine after another at the well-made, enjoyable, and reasonably priced segment of the kosher wine market. Part of his long-term mission has been to help foster a culture of general wine appreciation and healthy wine consumption in the American kosher consumer world. Now in its twenty-fourth year, the Abarbanel brand of kosher wines seems to be doing a very fine job of bringing to market enjoyable kosher wines that are distinguishing enough to attract and hold interest.
These latest releases are the 2015 vintage of his single vineyard Pays d'Oc unoaked chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon, and a return of his Alsatian gewurztraminer.
Many might not recall that Abarbanel was the first to import kosher Alsatian wines to the United States back in 1995. There are now, thankfully, a variety of kosher Alsatian wines available in the US, and from multiple producers. It was Abarbanel, however, who singlehandedly created the US market for kosher Alsatian wines with his Gewurztraminer, Cremant d'Alsace, and Riesling imports, all from the now sadly defunct La Cave de Sigolsheim cooperative. The Alsatian Riesling is back on the market.
This new Abarbanel Alsatian Gewurztraminer was hand-harvested from 40-year-old vines in the Haut-Rhin region of Alsace, in the low slopes of the Vosges Mountains. On the production side, the wine is being produced by the same team that had been running the kosher production of the Abarbanel wines at La Cave de Sigolsheim since the early 1990s: winemaker Guillaume Motzek, now Maitre de Chai at La Cave du Vieil Armand and Gaby Dzialoszynski, the kashrut supervisor with the Grand Rabbinat de Strasbourg.
This latest Abarbanel Gewurzt comes with a new label called "Lemminade"; a friendly appeal to the under 40 set and is now vinified as semi-dry and non-mevushal. Without further ado:
Abarbanel, Lemminade, Gewurztraminer, Vin D'alsace, Old-Vine, 2015 ($23; non-mevushal): this is a beautiful, bright, vibrant, somewhat rounded yet refreshing and very slightly sweet Gewurtz with tingly acidity, and wonderful aromas and flavors of white peach, lychee, and wild flowers, with notes of ginger and cloves. Serve only slightly chilled with poultry, Asian cuisine, Cajun cooking.
Abarbanel, Batch 30, Unoaked Chardonnay, Pas d'Oc, 2015 ($14; mevushal): an enjoyable, straightforward, chardonnay sourced from the Les Chemins de Favarelle single vineyard in the Aude River Valley of the Languedoc, with clean and inviting notes of citrus and pear, some lovely spice, nice balancing acidity, and an agreeably creamy mouth-feel. Refreshing.
Abarbanel, Batch 22, Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon, Pays d'Oc, 2015 ($14; mevushal): This is an inviting, food friendly light-to-medium bodied cab, sourced from the Les Dolmens Rouges, a single vineyard near Ouveillan in the Aude River Valley (Languedoc); offering clean currant, dark berry, and herbal notes, with slightly rustic tannins, this is a simple yet very engaging quaffer, and a solid choice for a basic red.
David And Goliath - A smaller player scores some big new hits.Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon - Jewish Week Online Columnists
Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 2:15pm
In popular and secular terms, the biblical confrontation between David and Goliath is seized upon as a shorthand reference for a hopeful image of the underdog, a contest or battle between a relatively small or weak opponent against a much bigger and much stronger adversary. In the world of kosher wine, this image comes periodically to mind - though obviously minus the inherent violence and explicit "good-guy vs. bad-guy" overtones. One of our longtime favorite "Davids" in the kosher wine world is the Abarbanel Brand Wines, run by Howard Abarbanel. In its heyday, the Abarbanel Brand (established in 1992), led the pack with the most innovative and diverse portfolio of imported kosher wines. Abarbanel Brand strove, as Howard once put it to one of us, "to create new and different kosher wines to broaden the types of wine available to the kosher consumer."He has always insisted that "leadership" in kosher wine "is about the quality and caliber of the wines" rather than merely volume sales.
Part of his long-term mission has been to help foster a culture of general wine appreciation and healthy consumption in the American kosher consumer world. As he put it: "not every wine is meant to 'blow you away,' many wines are meant to enjoy with pizza or pasta on a Wednesday night or for an average Shabbat meal on a Friday or Saturday, not necessarily a special occasion."
To be sure, Abarbanel Brand had its share of "knock-out" wines too, but his vision was, and remains, well beyond that. "We are not producing wines just for the Robert Parkers of the world," he explained [Parker being one of the world's leading wine critics], but also "for average kosher Jews." In this, thankfully, Abarbanel delivered the goods. Abarbanel was the first to the U.S. market with kosher Beaujolais and Chilean Malbec, for example, as well as the first to bring in kosher wines from Australia, South Africa, Portugal, Germany, the Alsatian Pinot Noir, and the list goes on and on.
His successes attracted attention from the Goliaths in the market, and others have since taken up the banner of portfolio diversity.
Eventually Abarbanel closed the import and distribution part of his business, retiring from hustle and bustle to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Although he maintained the Abarbanel brand itself, it was being licensed and run by Admiral Imports of New Jersey from early 2010 until last year. Following the bankruptcy and collapse of Admiral, however, Abarbanel is back at the helm, and is busy rebuilding the brand, which is now imported and distributed by Faropian Spirits, ltd.
Abarbanel Brand Wines currently features a limited portfolio of well-made, enjoyable, reasonably priced, single vineyard wines, such as his (mevushal) Abarbanel, Batch 22, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($14), sourced from Les Dolmens Rouges, a single vineyard near Ouveillan in the Aude River Valley in the South of France. This inviting, food friendly quaffer offers dark currant, red berry and cranberry flavors accented with some spice and tobacco. This offers terrific bang for your buck for those seeking an interesting yet unpretentious wine to jovially lubricate an everyday meal, or cater an event. There is also a similarly priced and similarly enjoyable (mevushal) single vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay.