Adam S. Montefiore
Search
MENU
Search

ARTICLES

A CREATION OF TWO CONTINENTS

Article by Kobi Klaitman on Adam Montefiore, winner of the Terravino Lifetime Achievement Award 2024.
A creation of two continents

By Kobi Klaitman

Translation of article published by Ish Anavim – Grape-Man, 25.01.2024

There are moments when you can sense the presence of an important person.  One who does things not only because it is his job, but also out of a sense of mission. An understanding, that he is the right person for the task. Maybe Zionism is the reason. However, when I sat down to interview Adam Montefiore, apart from the charm of his British accent, I thought that if Israel was still a British colony, he would probably have been made Sir Montefiore a long time ago.

Adam S. Montefiore

Much has been written about his work and this writer has also written about him in the past (see the previous article), but the years go by and he, who under normal circumstances should be retiring soon, is at one of the peaks of his work, constantly reinventing himself with new ideas and continuing to raise the profile of the Israeli wine industry in Israel and around the world. Of him it can certainly be said that writing and professionalism have no age, but their quality sometimes has a ‘best before’ date that does not apply to people like Montefiore.

Adam’s Thrilling Journey

Montefiore is an ambassador for the Israeli wine industry in all its facets, telling in polished English about Israeli wine people and the fruits of their labor, whether in his articles or in his published books. He sees this as a true mission. No less than that, he influences international wine literature and as can be seen by his contribution to books of iconic wine critics like Jancis Robinson MW, Hugh Johnson and Oz Clarke. He worked in leading wineries in Israel – Carmel Winery and the Golan Heights Winery, and knows the industry backwards. And perhaps the most important of all, one of his babies is the concept of advancing the idea of an Eastern Mediterranean region. A unifying idea that shows the virtuous of a region stuck with nationalism and factionalism.

Today, the 66-year-young Montefiore is a very well-known figure in Israel and the world in the context of wine, but when he immigrated to Israel in the late 1980’s, he brought with him some connections, a well-known family name and a bag full of experience from the country that undoubtedly determines much of what happens in the world of wine and spirits worldwide. On the other hand, he was the “newcomer”, with a heavy British accent, virtually no Hebrew, without a job and without knowing which of the well-known Israeli singers, Yardena Arazi or Ofra Haza, came first. Not an easy start, there’s no doubt.

In 1989, when he was 32 years old, he, along with his wife and three children, he left behind 4.00 o’clock tea for orangeade and Sabra Liqueur and arrived at Ra’anana Absorption Center. Montefiore didn’t have a job, but he had a dream to work in the wine trade in Israel. This dream that was forged back in 1986 when he first worked with the wines of the Golan Heights Winery, when he was Wine Manager of Bass Charrington’s hotel chain. “I went to interviews at the wineries and no-one got back to me. The Golan Heights told me they were too small for me at the time.” In practice, he says that as someone who came with an extensive understanding of wine but did not speak the Hebrew language, he was looked down upon. “I approached Carmel and they were not interested. I approached other wineries, spirit importers, then hotels and finally food companies. Nothing.” He began to get anxious. When he met Dan Proper (CEO of the food company Osem at the time), it took only one telephone call to the CEO of Carmel Mizrahi, Avraham Ben Moshe to be straight away accepted for a position tailored to his skills. That same week, he received two more job offers. One from Arik Segal of Segal Wines and and the other from Sheraton Plaza Jerusalem to work as Food & Beverage Manager alongside Chef Shalom Kadosh. The choice was easy, the realization of a dream.

At Carmel, Adam went through a baptism of fire and learned what it means to be Israeli and all that it implies. This did not prevent him from succeeding in implementing new work methods in the field of hotels & restaurants. He stayed there until 1992 and then became the Export Manager of Golan Heights Winery until 2002. After that he returned to work at Carmel Winery until 2016 and since then he is self-employed and independent. To his credit, we can point to many achievements and many initiatives he led (even if others take credit for them), some of which not only contributed to the wineries themselves but also to the Israeli wine industry as a whole.

For example, promoting the concept of wine by the glass, something that was not so common until then. “I told Carmi Lebenstein of Carmel, that we need wine at the closest price to a glass of beer and then people can choose between the two.” He organized the first sommelier course in Israel in 1994, and the prestigious “Pras Yarden” (The Yarden Award for Wine Service) that continued for over two decades. It certainly gave prominence to the importance of wine service, encouraged wine education and raised standards. Montefiore was one of those involved in the launch of Yatir Winery and the Carmel Wine & Culture Center. Labels like Mediterranean, Limited Edition and Kayoumi were also from his initiatives. He brought here from his first day a totally new concept of professional support to hotels & restaurants. Many eyebrows were raised, gradually he gained respect and people began to trust him as a person who comes first to lend a shoulder, help and teach. During this time, he greatly influenced an improvement in the professionalism of wine lists, which had been pretty basic previously. In 2003 he founded Handcrafted Wines of Israel and included wineries with a common goal – promotion of “brand Israel”. To date, as a consultant, he has already advised over 40 wineries in the fields of marketing, PR, export and all written material a winery needs. The canvas is really far from full.

In 2010 he turned to professional writing about wine. He explains writing is his art and the way he can express himself. But this step is perhaps not surprising since he comes from a family of writers. His mother wrote under her pen name Jennifer Gabbey, and maiden name, April Jaffé. Also, his two brothers, Hugh and Simon Sebag Montefiore, are also very well-known writers in the United Kingdom. He found a comfortable and suitable home in the Jerusalem Post to write articles about wineries and winemakers. He sees himself as a writer, not a critic, and does not give scores. He is a story teller and that is the most important thing in his eyes. He had in fact written for years before he began with the Jerusalem Post, but initially, out of concern of a conflict of interest, his articles were published without the author’s name. He was moved that his mother saved every article he wrote and kept it in a file, that Montefiore received as a surprise after she passed away.

He has written the books “The Wine Route of Israel”, “Wines of Israel”, and also books that tell the story of the Domaine du Castel and the Golan Heights Winery, as well as contributing to “Time and Place” by Tzora Vineyards. He is a regular contributor to The Oxford Wine Companion by Jancis Robinson MW and Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book. He also contributed to The Book of New Israeli Food by Jana Gur, Oz Clarke’s Wine A to Z and The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. 

Adams book

Recently Montefiore began to work on a book that will be published under one of the most prestigious wine book publishers in the world. It will deal with nothing less than the vision he has been leading for years – the wines of the Eastern Mediterranean. The book will focus on the wines of the Levant, and in particular Israel, Cyprus and Lebanon, with the Israeli part written by Montefiore. Perhaps the only thing he has not published yet, is an autobiography, but that is a vision for another time!

Montefiore’s complete Eastern Mediterranean wine vision includes Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey. True, from a political point of view it seems that a connection between these countries is on the verge of madness, but when you remove the political barrier, through the glass of wine, the world looks more beautiful and authentic. Since according to him “Israel is not an island and kosher is not a country” even when he was working in England he noticed the uniqueness of the region (cuisine, similar terroir, comparable drinks culture, potential connection of indigenous grape varieties, maybe even temperament?) and made sure to present Yarden wines of the Golan Heights Winery alongside the Lebanese Chateau Musar on his wine lists, under the heading “Eastern Mediterranean.” The Israeli wine had just received a major international award at the IWSC in London, was presented next to a familiar and beloved Lebanese wine. In 1994 he invited Wine Magazine to Israel and for the first time someone wrote about Israel and Lebanon together. Today, he says, there are more reasons than ever to further promote the vision. In many exhibitions where he meets Lebanese and Turkish winemakers, the corks are taken out of the bottle, while the political demons and leaders are kept aside.

According to him, the need to realize the vision is marketing on the shelves in stores and on wine lists in restaurants around the world. Wine shops in New York, Paris and London are divided into the famous areas and the East Med countries are normally forgotten under headings like “Other” or “Rest of the World.”  Instead of this, Montefiore wants the wines to be listed and displayed together under headings like “Eastern Mediterranean”, “Levant” or “Ancient World” (if wines from Armenia and Georgia are included too) and this is gradually happening according to him. “Our wider region maybe  small but our terroir is unique and of interest.”

Adams Family

If you wondered how Montefiore has enough time for family, then know that being a family man is his favorite thing especially when it combines his loves. He really likes to taste wine with his children David and Rachel (his eldest son, Liam, lives in England) and he loves to spend time with his grandchildren. His shelves are full of books and he is an avid history buff. You will often find him exploring his love of eating in restaurants or even in a game of squash,  which he returned to after years of absence from the court. When he was young man, he even won some squash competitions. When he is alone, he enjoys a glass of whisky with some water and ice, or a cup of tea, of course. He claims that today everyone thinks they are wine experts and sometimes forget that wine is mainly drunk for pleasure. He also admits that once he was fanatical about matching wine to food dishes, but today it is less important to him. Also, he is not bothered by the expense and suitability of the wine glass or if the wine is poured from a bottle, wine box or can. On the one hand, he is an advocate for wine education and study, and on the other hand, if wine is not accessible, who will be left to teach?!

He also has an important message for the Israeli wine industry and it sounds like nothing less than the slogan “Together we will prevail.” He says “We need to work more together to promote wine sales in Israel, to promote Brand Israel in export and develop a real wine culture.” His hope is that, like in the Judea Wine Region and in the Negev, other regions in Israel will work more together to encourage wine tourism. He points out everyone will benefit from this.

Or as Churchill said: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”

Kobi Klaitman, wine and culinary writer for over 15 years. Writes for Walla! and Grape-man.com.
In the past he wrote for Wine & Gourmet Magazine, Sommelier.co.il and TelAvivCity.com Copy editor of “Zone Defence-on Wine Regions & Regionality Worldwide” by E. Barulfan. For the last 10 years, he participates as a judge in various wine competitions.

THEJERUSALEM POST

WINE TALK

Haim Gan

A LAND OF FISH, OLIVE OIL AND WHITE WINE

The contribution of Haim Gan of Ish Anavim
Life goes on

LIFE GOES ON

This Passover buy Israeli wine
THINKING & DRINKING

THINKING & DRINKING

Start-up distillery in the heart of Jerusalem
More wine talk articles from:

More articles

A SWEET NEW YEAR

A SWEET NEW YEAR

It may be the quality red wines which receive all the plaudits. These are arguably the wines that Israel makes best and the critics love

Read More +
THE WINE FESTIVAL

THE WINE FESTIVAL

Passover is of course not just Seder Night and the Festival of Freedom, it is also the Festival of Wine. When and where else, are

Read More +
A Personal Note on Rogov

A Personal Note on Rogov

I first met Daniel Rogov in 1990 when he was still writing for the Jerusalem Post (the leading English language newspaper in Israel). In those

Read More +

MENI PEER 1946-2014

Meni Peer, z”l, has sadly died, just before his 68th birthday, after a courageous fight against cancer. He was an actor in cinema and theatre,

Read More +