Adam S. Montefiore
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IN GOOD HANDS

When I made aliyah in 1989, there were just twelve wineries. In those days all of them, except one, also made spirits and liqueurs. The exception was the Golan Heights Winery. Then, we used to talk about only one region in Israel in relation to quality. That was the high elevation, volcanic Golan Heights. The largest wine growing region was around the southern slopes of Mt Carmel, or what may be described as the northern Coastal region. The most planted variety by far, was Carignan. The largest selling wine was Carmel’s Selected Emerald Riesling.

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COMETH THE HOUR, COMETH THE WOMEN

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NEW EDITION OF YARDEN ROM

The Golan Heights Winery has launched their new expression of Yarden Rom, from the 2019 vintage. This is a rarely produced prestige wine of the winery. Whereas the Yarden Katzrin is a Bordeaux blend, the Rom blend also incorporated Syrah.

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HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU, KID

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HIPSTER’S CHAMPAGNE

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YALLA MOROCCO!

There has been tremendous warmth and interest both ways, about the new relations between Morocco and Israel. We all loved watching the World Cup. The incredible success of the Atlas Lions had us all on the edge of our seats. If Morocco can do it, maybe Israel can, although that does seem a dream too far! Anyway, at the same time Morocco was on our minds, we learnt some new Moroccan wines were being imported to Israel. Shaked, Israel’s leading importers and often the pioneers, have listed seven wines from Celliers de Meknes and Thalvin-Domaine Ouled Thaleb, two of Morocco’s most famous wineries. We had the opportunity to taste them and meet the winemaker and export manager, at Shaked’s Annual Tasting. In Israel there is a very sizeable ex patriot Moroccan population, who will be curious to taste wines from the old country. The timing could not be better. 

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END OF YEAR SPARKLE

New Year’s Eve, Sylvester’s or Novy God, are all reasons or excuses to drink sparkling wine. This is the wine of celebration symbolizing happiness and joie de vivre. The prime quality representative of this sector has always been Champagne, made in the Champagne region of France by the ‘Champagne Method’. The image of real Champagne does have a certain magic and stardust about it.

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THE OTHER HALF

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FIRST, WE TAKE BERLIN!

I once ate in a good Greek restaurant in London, and astonishingly, there was not even one Greek wine on the wine list. It was only slightly better when I visited one of the finest Turkish restaurants in the West End. There I found the cheapest Turkish house wine, but that was all. When I went to Palomar, an award winning restaurant bristling with Israeli influence, there was but one paltry Israeli wine in each category on the wine list. In America, Israeli chefs are a little less embarrassed to list Israeli wines, but not much. When I go to a restaurant where the food is ethnic, I want the wine to represent the cuisine.

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CHANGING THE PARADIGM

A few years ago the wine team of one of the world’s most famous winery’s in the world visited
Israel. They spent a week here visiting wineries, vineyards, universities and academic
institutions. When I asked the owner why a winery from Bordeaux of all places, would come to
learn from Israel, and not say somewhere like Australia, I was told: “Israel is streets ahead. No-
one has the research and development that is taking place here.” Unfortunately when I posted a
proud photo with the winery owner, I was told to take it down. It was a secret visit – though it
was in no way secret to all the wine people and researchers they met.

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Reinventing the vision

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PIONEERS OF SUSTAINABILITY, LEADERS IN THE UPPER GALILEE

I travelled north from the center of the country, fortunately driven by Yael Gai. It is enjoyable going against the flow of the traffic, especially when you are not driving. It took two hours to arrive at Kibbutz Yiron. There, we were welcomed in the community garden of the kibbutz in a beautifully shaded, tranquil spot. It has a carefully cultivated wild look, resplendent with colorful flowers, a vegetable garden and fruit trees. All I needed was a book and a hammock. Of course, I am not turning into a market gardener. I was there to visit Galil Mountain Winery.

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Do good, drink well

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THE HORROR OF WAR

Vladimir Putin’s kamikaze drones have been launched indiscriminately across Ukraine and recently on civilians in Kyiv, their capital. The bombardment from the Russian army was typically brutal, murderous and a designed to cause fear, panic, the maximum mayhem, and to crush the spirit of the Ukrainian people.

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Vika, wine and war

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THE ISRAELI BOCUSE

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MENSCH IN CHEF’S WHITES

Chef Shalom Kadosh is an icon. He has cooked for Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, from President Carter and Menahem Begin onwards. Nowadays Israeli Chefs are shaking up the world, but Kadosh was the first. No one has done more to advance Kosher cuisine, Israeli gastronomy and he has been a shining ambassador of Israel amongst his peers, the greatest chefs in the world, and gourmets and gourmands everywhere.

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WINE TINTED SPECTACLES

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WINE TOURISM FESTIVAL

Sukkot is the harvest festival, when we sit in booths under the stars. It is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. However most of the grains, including wheat and barley, and many of the fruits, were harvested earlier in the year and are covered by other harvest festivals (such as Passover and Shavuot).

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All the fun of the fair

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The name says it all

Gaja is arguably the most famous name in Italian wine.

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Drinking with your mind

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STEADY HAND ON THE TILLER

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Give that man a goldstar

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Story of a vineyard

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Women of the vine

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Respect for your elders

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Argaman comes of age

Argaman is the 6th most planted red grape variety in Israel. Originally the purpose of this variety was modest. It was not intended to be seen so much, but to be used more as a work horse grape. Recently though, Argaman has been catapulted to the forefront by the very good results in the Decanter World Wine Awards and the Challenge International du Vin. So maybe we should look at this variety with new eyes.

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Think white….and pink

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This sparkling sceptered isle

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Times they are a’changin

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Handmade fresh fizz

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Celebrating the fruit of the vine

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No room for small dreams

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FLY LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STING LIKE A BEE

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LE’HAIM – IT’S PURIM

The Purim story gives us an insight into wine consumption in an unlikely place. The Persia of those days was in stark contrast to the ultra-strict Islamic regime of Iran today. Wine infused parties were all the rage. Just read the Scroll of Esther. Many even attribute the discovery of wine to Persian folklore.

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THE VERSATILITY OF THE VINE

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ISRAEL’S FIRST RECORDED WINERY

I learnt this week that Adv. Gabriel Ginio had passed away in Jerusalem at the grand old age of 97. He was the 6th generation of the Ginio family. Why did this strike a chord within me? This was because it was the Ginio family, who founded the first recorded winery, in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1840. Gabriel Ginio may have been a lawyer, not a winemaker, but to those that met him, he was able to reminisce about the family wine business. May his memory be a blessing.

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JERUSALEM WINERIES: FROM THEN UNTIL NOW

The Shor Winery was founded by Rabbi Yitzhak Shor in the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1848. Israel’s oldest winery was situated alongside ‘Ha’Kotel Hakatan’ – the Little Western Wall. One of the Shor family’s inspirations was Sir Moses Montefiore, who had encouraged Jews to return to agriculture and work instead of living off charity. One hundred and seventy years later, the Jerusalem Vineyard Winery opened a tasting room, at the Montefiore Windmill in the heart of Jerusalem. A connection between the Shor Winery of 1848 and the Jerusalem Vineyard Winery of 2019, was Tsippora Mendelsohn, née Shor, who has just passed away, aged 93 years old.

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LOVE IS IN THE AIR

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PRESERVING THE OLD AND ON WITH THE NEW

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SHMITTAH 5782

One of the requirements to make a wine Kosher in Israel, is observance of the Shmittah year. Secular Jews and certainly everyone who is not Jewish, are endlessly confused about what this entails. The observance, ambiguities and contradictions of Shmittah defy rational explanation. This is my effort to write an explanation for the curious. Of course, it goes without saying, religious Jews, Torah observant Jews and Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox Jews, should seek their explanations and discussions about the minutiae of the Halacha (Jewish law), from a Rabbi. This is not for them.

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IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ROTHSCHILD

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TU BISHVAT: TREES & VINES

Israel has a festival for planting trees, which is called Tu Bishvat, aka the New Year for Trees. It is celebrated literally by planting trees and has also become a festival with ecological undertones, reminding us to care for the environment. School children will go on tree planting activities and people from abroad are encouraged to make a donation for a tree to be planted in their name. This respect for trees and the environment has stood Israel well. It is the only country in the world with more trees than one hundred years ago.

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PASS THE BUBBLY

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Hidden talents in a big pond

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THE MISSING LINK

The cradle of wine culture was in the Eastern Mediterranean. In ancient times and Biblical times, the wine drinker would have been quite familiar with wines from places where today’s Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey are situated.  After the golden age, the region made pretty awful wine for 2,000 years, or at least during the periods there was not prohibition. However in the last twenty years there has been a revolution in quality. Each of the East Med countries is making the best wine they have made for thousands of years and it has become a very dynamic, quality driven wine region.

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A TALE OF THREE SPARKLING WINES

One can basically tell the story of Israeli fizz in three sparkling wines: The President’s, produced by Carmel Mizrahi, Yarden Blanc de Blancs made by the Golan Heights Winery and Raziel Brut Nature, a new expression by the Ben-Zaken family. The President’s was the dominant player from the 1950’s until the late 1980’s. Yarden Blanc de Blancs dates from the early 1990’s and Raziel’s new sparkling wine has not even been launched yet!

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Lets talk Turkey

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NATURAL HISTORY REVIVAL

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FREE SPIRITED & HANDCRAFTED

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A journey from the canaanites to israelis

In this little sliver of the Holy Land, in the southern Levant, lying on the eastern basin of the Mediterranean, wine has been made by the Canaanites, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Israelites, Greeks, Romans, Nabateans, Byzantines and Crusaders up to the modern Israelis. Archaeology, the Bible and religious texts provide an insight both into winemaking and the importance of wine in the region.

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MAKING WINE ACCESSIBLE

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WOMEN DOING WINE RIGHT

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REDEMPTION

I recently received a message offering me the opportunity to see the film ‘Redemption’, about the Israeli winemakers of Judea and Samaria. This is the area also known as Greater Israel, the West Bank, ‘the Territories’, the ‘Occupied Territories’, the Palestine Authority or even Palestine, depending on where you stand on the political spectrum. In the new wine map it is known as the Central Mountains, which describes the topography, but overlooks the political storm below the surface. Whichever is used immediately flags up your political belief without a filter. Of course, I was interested to see the film, especially as it is the third film I have seen this year on winemaking in the Levant, the eastern basin of the Mediterranean.

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DESERT WINES

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The Democratization of wine

Wine must be one of the most conservative of all consumer products. Believe it or not, it was roughly in 800 BCE, that the Phoenicians first decided to store wine in glass. The Romans were the first to use cork. That was a long time ago. Three hundred years ago the idea of putting wine in a glass bottle became in vogue. In time, the bottle shape evolved to the cylindrical shape we know today. Yet here we are in the 21st century, and we are still selling wine in glass, which is heavy, and we are still demanding the customer buy five glasses in one go, the contents of a 750 ml. bottle. In these environmental caring days, it should be understood that most of the carbon footprint of wine stems from the production, packaging and transport of this glass. Furthermore we are still stoppering a bottle with a bit of tree bark as we have done for centuries. The developments over the last 30 years, has been unbelievable. The technology in the vineyard and winery is a different world from what the grandparents of today’s winemakers were used to. Yet in the packaging of wine, we are in a kind of time warp.

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NEW YEAR WINE ALERT

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HAPPY, SWEET & HEALTHY

We Jews have been bought up with a love hate relationship with sweet wines. From the Brit (circumcision) at a mere eight days old, when a smidgeon of sweet wine was given to the baby soothe the pain and shock, to Festivals and Shabbats, where we would celebrate with a glass of Kiddush wine and then say the blessing, only uttered when partaking of wine.

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NOT JUST PORT

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KEEPING IT LOCAL

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WHAT BOBAL AND RAMBAM HAVE IN COMMON

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A LIFE IN FIVE WINES

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WINE IN THE CITY

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LOOKING EAST IN THE LEVANT

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RETURNING TO BASICS

A decade ago, we knew there were local varieties, grown for centuries in the vineyards of the Holy Land, but we never thought of them as being wine grapes. Wine books were published and names like Bittuni, Dabouki and Marawi just did not appear under the headings of Israel, the Palestine Authority, the Holy Land or anywhere else. Yet the wineries that were founded by Jewish families in the 19th century, like Shor and Teperberg, used these same local varieties that we are talking about today. They were purchased from Arab owned vineyards in the Hebron area.

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A GREEK WELCOME

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GREEK WINES IN ISRAEL

The wine world tends to divide itself into the ‘New World’ and ‘Old World’. Israel finds itself as part of the Eastern Mediterranean wine region. If you add Georgia and Armenia to the countries of the East Med like Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, Turkey and Israel, then you have the basis of what may be described as the ‘Ancient World’. Though the wines from these countries may be considered exotic today, the wine drinker in Biblical and ancient times, would have been quite familiar with them. The Ancient World was cradle of the grape and this was where the birth of wine culture took place. It was then the France and Italy of those times, both in terms of quantity and quality.

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Festival in white

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FOUR CUPS, ONE FAMILY

The Shor family has been making wine since 1848. Generation after generation, handed down from grandfather to father, father to son, son to grandson and so on. It is Israel’s oldest wine dynasty. They began in what was the Ottoman Empire, continued under the British Mandate and are still going strong in the 73rd year of the State of Israel. Today the family focus seems to be on four wineries in the market place. These are: 1848 Winery, Hayotzer Winery, Shorr Estate and Zion Winery. These wineries with deep roots in the history of Israeli wines, are all run independently by different branches of the family.

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Holy Wine Batman!

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Eat Drink and Be Merry

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Turning a Hobby into a Profession

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This Year Is Different From All Other Years

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Drinking To Remember or to forget

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A BLEND OF WINE, JUDAISM AND THE LAND OF ISRAEL

Imagine winemaking at Ancient Shiloh 3,000 years ago. This was where the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant resided before Jerusalem came on the scene. Grapes were one of the seven blessed species. Wine was an essential ingredient of the sacrifice ritual on the Altar. It was a mainstay of the economy and a major export to places like Egypt. The vineyards were situated on the hills, overlooked by a watch tower/

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ROSES & ROSES

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NEW YEAR FOR TREES

Israel has a festival for planting trees, which is called Tu Bishvat. It is celebrated literally by planting trees and has also become a festival with ecological undertones, reminding us to care for the environment. School children will go on tree planting activities and people from abroad are encouraged to make a donation for a tree to be planted in their name. This respect for trees and the environment has stood Israel well. It is the only country in the world with more trees than one hundred years ago.

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First Among Equals

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Tel Aviv’s Angels

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THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS

I first met him in 1991. He looked about 17, had long straggly, curly hair, round rimmed glasses and spoke with a Californian drawl. In fact, he was really 27 years old and had been appointed for a three-year term to become Head Winemaker of The Golan Heights Winery, then a two million bottle winery. Fast forward thirty years, Victor Schoenfeld has become a legendary figure in the world of Israeli wine.

To set the scene, the largest winery was then Carmel Mizrahi with 75% of the market. The main wineries apart from Carmel and the Golan were Eliaz, Efrat and Askalon (sic.) The so-called Jerusalem wineries (Arza, Hacormim, Shimshon and Zion) and the monasteries (Cremisan and Latroun) were only significant to the markets they served. Barkan had only just been founded out of the ashes of WEST-Stock-Montfort. The largest selling wine was Selected Emerald Riesling. Whites outsold reds. We have come a long way since then!

Victor?s first task was to create order, introduce decision making procedures and minimum standards. He is someone who disdains disorder and ?balagan?. He harnessed the obvious potential of the winery by introducing an infrastructure in keeping with a serious winery. That was his first achievement.

Under his watch, the Golan Heights Winery cemented its position as the pioneer of Israeli wine. The first icon, cult wine of Israel, Yarden Katzrin, was produced. The winery introduced a world class range of Traditional Method Sparkling wines, of which the Yarden Blanc de Blancs became the most famous. Mount Hermon Red became the largest selling Israeli wine. Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon re-emphasized its position offering the best QPR (quality per price) in the NIS 50 ? 100 category and that perennial award winner Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, became the flagship wine of the country. Victor has won major awards for white, red, sparkling and dessert wines showing praiseworthy versatility, but if we had to pin it down, he would be the ?King of Cabernet? and ?The Master of Sparkling Wines?!? These are the wines most associated with Victor.

The winery was also responsible for the first varietals of Syrah, Pinot Noir & Gewurztraminer (outside Latroun); the first Muscat Canelli, the first organically grown wine, one of the first single vineyard wines, the first in the Moscato style, the first dessert wine made by cryo-extraction (HeightsWine), the first Port style wine from Portuguese varieties. The first wine made from carbonic maceration and so on. The list is endless. There is only so much space.

Victor Schoenfeld has remained the backbone and ballast of the winery and managed to keep it on message and focused for thirty years. He has had four different CEO?s as partners. Not all always signed on to Victor?s long-term vision. His great achievement was not losing sight of his goals, not compromising his standards, but also managing to cajole the management into supporting him. There have been some pretty hefty investments in the vineyards and winery to support that long-term approach.

The rewards came thick and fast. In the nineties, the Golan Heights Winery was the great beacon of Israeli wine. Those new wineries that devoted themselves to quality did so in the image of Yarden and with the example of the winery set before them. As other regions developed like the Galilee and Judean Hills, they followed the emphasis on region that the Golan Heights Winery already practiced on the Golan Heights. Their international recognition put Israel on the wine map. They were the first winery to be invited to the New York Wine Experience. The first Israeli winery to make the Wine Spectator Top 100. The Wine Enthusiast chose them as Best New World Winery. They received the Best Winery Award at Vin Italy. They won the Platinum Medal and 95 points at Decanter WWA. Four stars in Hugh Johnson?s Pocket Wine Book. Again, there is not enough space.

Of course, we worked together for a number of years, bringing some unique memories. One was eating a barbeque together, halfway up Mount Fuji, where I earnt his everlasting respect by eating a sea cucumber. Another was enjoying a magnum of Chateau Lafite 1959 in a small sushi bar in Tokyo, where there was barely room for ten people. We also worked ourselves to exhaustion, many a year at Vinexpo in Bordeaux, bringing Israeli wine to the world. So, I had the opportunity to observe him at close quarters.

Victor Schoenfeld is not always easy and relaxed. He can be as taught as a spring. He does not suffer fools gladly, can?t abide laziness and holds others to his high standards. However, his is arguably the only Israeli winery that has in built quality that may be passed on to the next generation in the manner of say, a Penfolds in Australia.

He does not scatter words like confetti. Everything is considered and mulled over before you hear his opinion. In that split second before he answers, you can almost hear his mind whirring when you ask a question. On the other hand, he has a very dry sense of humor, with a comment often muttered as an aside, that unless you know him well, you will not realize he is joking.

He is at his most relaxed and in his element, when cooking. The Schoenfeld family kitchen is not the pristine affair with all the mod cons that social risers like showing to their neighbors. It is used, lived in and rather like a galley kitchen with overflowing shelves on all sides. Good restaurants have less condiments and pots and pans of every description. It is also like an altar. The raised table and hob in the center of the organized chaos is where the hands-on cook creates, innovates with a total spontaneity. Here he is free from procedures, standards and responsibilities. He potters around the kitchen, busy, yet fulfilled and totally locked into food flavor creation. He never cooks the same dish twice and does not follow recipes, even though the shelves are creaking from the number of cook books.

If I say he has six grills which he possessively hangs on to, you understand the fetish. Once I was with him in Japan. We had to do a detour to buy a Japanese knife. Even though he acknowledged he would probably get it in the neck for buying ?yet another? Japanese knife, he could not help himself.

In fact, food was his way into winemaking.? He wanted to be a farmer and grow food. Fortunately for us, the 1980s was a nadir of commercial food production. Appearance, shelf live and distribution were then more important than flavor, individuality and a perception of quality. However, this was not true of viticulture or growing wine. He was introduced to wine (in particular Italian reds) by the father of a friend. He studied at UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis. He worked for wineries such as Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley, Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma, Jacquesson et Fils in Champagne, and even squeezed in a year to manage a vineyard at Tishbi Winery in Israel.

The key to his love of wine is that he sees wine as a food, not a drink. Wine is to enjoy with a meal. He believes you have to humble as a winemaker. He himself is the antithesis of the ?I, me and mine? winemaker, who loves to tell you what they have done and how good they are. We have a? few of those in Israel. With Victor you have to prompt and almost squeeze it out of him. Once I witnessed Japan?s most famous sommelier ask him: ?Of the wines you make, which is your favorite?? Victor paused, as though scratching his head in his mind, clearly struggling with an answer. Then he replied: ?You know,? another pause? ?I am not really happy with any wine I make.? He went on: ?I always see the faults.? Unrehearsed, honest to a fault and revealing, he gave the answer that sums up the pursuit of excellence, the modesty and constant desire to improve. Sometimes he and his winemaking team say ?just think, only five years ago we knew nothing?, such is weight of constant new information, developing technology and ongoing learning. As Victor says ?the past is unimportant. What is of interest, is the future.?

The Golan Heights Winery is now nearly a six million bottle winery. Victor is responsible for 26 people. These include five winemakers, viticulturists, wine growers and the laboratory team. Any winery in the world would be proud to have the data base of vineyard information he has at his disposal. They practice precision agriculture with the most sophisticated irrigation management and green practices such as composting and wind generated electricity. Each vineyard block is mapped and catalogued, with constant monitoring of temperature, soil conductivity, growth and water. The Golan Heights vineyards are the most studied and analyzed agricultural land in Israel. Paradoxically, Schoenfeld explains that the more information he has at his fingertips, the more it allows him to enable the vine to speak for itself. He wants the wine to represent the terroir, not the winery or the winemaker.

The Golan Heights Winery certainly set the standard, but Schoenfeld also initiated changes that will positively affect the whole industry. It is a sad fact that Israeli vineyards are crippled by virus and the authorities have been paralyzed like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car. The lack of ownership for the chronic problem is astonishing. Instead of whining and bleating, or a wringing of hands, the Golan Heights Winery created its own Nursery & Propagation Block, partnering with world leaders ENTAV-INRA. The primary reason is to provide its own vineyards with clean plant material, but a secondary benefit will be to supply the industry.

This should have been the remit of the Ministry of Agriculture or the Wine and Grapes Board, but the official response has been woefully inadequate. This program necessitated an astonishing investment by a winery, which was fraught with risk. When the group of Masters of Wine visited, most said they had never visited a Nursery & Propagation Block, and certainly not one developed by a winery. Ido Lewinsohn MW, winemaker of Barkan Winery, wrote about the leafroll virus in his dissertation to become a Master of Wine. It does not make optimistic reading.

The Golan Heights Winery did not talk, but acted. Credit for the decision goes to the winery management. Success has many fathers, but the person who made the case for this long-term investment and successfully implemented this incredibly ambitious program was Victor Schoenfeld and his team. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The new Allone Habashan single vineyard wines illustrate the success of this initiative.

In 2012 IPEVO, the Israeli Professional Enology & Viticulture Organization, was founded. There had been previous attempts to create a winemakers? forum, but these were more social in character, lacked serious content, were disrupted by a need for public relations and did not last. This one operated like a secret society. We all knew it existed but not what went on, apart from the fact that attendance was good and lectures or presentations were serious and worthwhile. In 2018 it was registered as a government non-profit association. I have heard how valued it is by participating winemakers. I don?t know for sure, but I have an inkling Schoenfeld may have been involved.

The first outing in a way was the publishing of the IPEVO Israel wine map. Israel has been totally incompetent in the last thirty years in updating the map of registered wine regions to match topography, marketing needs and the developments in the Israeli wine scene. This map, though it needs polishing and some marketing input, is a good basis and because of the inertia, will be used until the officials get their act together. IPEVO is an important body on the Israeli wine scene.

Schoenfeld volunteers his time as member of the Standards Institution of Israel. He was part of a committee that updated the Wine Standards for the first time in ages. This is important work to bring the local wine industry up to speed.

Now the winery has taken another major step by moving to a program of sustainable vineyards. Yet again, the Golan Heights Winery are the pioneers and they are the first Israeli winery to be internationally certified sustainable. As with the cooperation with ENTAV, they have chosen leaders of the field to collaborate with, in this instance, LODI RULES from California. Certified sustainable farming is all encompassing and relates to the environment, the people and the business. I have always thought sustainability is important for Israeli wineries and is only more so in the current environment along with the climate of opinion. It is also a good partner for Kosher. It all sounds more logical from a marketing point of you, when wrapped up together. Schoenfeld says ?We hope to act as a model for others in the Israeli wine industry in order to promote sustainability in our industry as a whole.?

He is bullish about Israeli wine. Sometimes I talk about how good we are, and then qualify it. Victor does not believe we have to apologize for anything. He explains we are a unique wine region with a melting pot of winemaking skills, and we should approach the world with more self-confidence. As for the Golan he says ?There is nowhere else on the planet that combines our latitude, which is a meeting place between Europe, Africa and Asia, with our high altitude and beautiful volcanic soils.? He explains wine is the only product that combines agriculture, industry and tourism and enchantingly, he describes wine drinking as a kind of armchair tourism.

Wine is an important industry in Israel. It is relatively small but high profile. There is no other product that runs like a thread from the beginnings of the Jewish people and from the first contact with the Land of Israel, until today. Hi-tec maybe a larger sector, but it is intangible and you can?t give someone a gift of a bottle of hi-tec. I have long thought that the Israeli wine should be recognized nationally. Would it not be appropriate for a representative of our industry to be awarded with the prestigious Israel Prize, in recognition of the tremendous strides made in the sector? If Israeli wine were a team in the Olympics, Victor Schoenfeld would be carrying the flag. I can think of no-one else who symbolizes all the positive developments quite like him.

Thirty years is but a blip in time in the life of a wine region. After all, that is only thirty harvests. As Baroness Philippine de Rothschild said: ?Winemaking is easy, it is only the first 200 years that is difficult.? Fortunately, we will have the benefit of Victor?s passion, hunger and perfectionism for a good many more years to come.

Adam Montefiore is a wine trade veteran, who has advanced Israeli wine for 35 years. He is referred to as ?the English voice of Israeli wine.?? He is the wine writer of the Jerusalem Post. www.adammontefiore.com

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Good Riddance To 2020

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WHISKY OF ISRAEL

I am a Zionist sort of guy. I like supporting Blue & White products. My choice of beer for many years was Goldstar. For 100 years Carmel was the national wine, until Yarden came along. With regard to Israeli spirits, it has always been more difficult to be patriotic. When I came to Israel there were such delights as Lord Gin and Captain Rum. Tehila was the shaky Israeli version of Tequila. Campari Israeli style was known as Kaprei. Araks were not made from grapes, as was the norm, but from imported molasses alcohol. Quality wise, the memory of them makes me cringe.

There were some sporadic successes. In the 1990s there was a time when Carmel?s bottling plant operated 24×6 because of the extraordinary demand of Vodka Stopka in Russia, but this sales bonanza did not last. Israeli brandies (made by Tishbi and Carmel) won some major awards and Sabra (a Seagram liqueur made in Israel) became an original addition to standard range of global liqueurs.

The range of wines increased substantially with the boutique winery revolution that began in the 1990s. The home brewing craze took off in the early 2000s and this led to a new craft brewery boom. Suddenly there were so many more locally produced wines and beers to choose from. In the spirits market, local production virtually fell away, apart from large selling survivors like Elite Arak and Stock 84. The import of global brands and high taxes made the production of local spirits, brandies and liqueurs unprofitable and unviable.

However, the second decade of the 21st century has brought about an artisan, craft distillery boom. Now, there are some producers of high-quality blue and white spirits, many totally original, some using local ingredients. Chief amongst these is the Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv, Julius Distillery in the Western Galilee, Yerushalmi Distillery in Jerusalem and both the Golan & Pelter Distilleries on the Golan Heights. The first was the artisan Julius Distillery. I have tasted some of their products, which are truly outstanding.?

The largest is the M&H Distillery, whose mission is to bring Israel into the world of Whisky. Whisky is mainly produced in five countries: Scotland, Canada, Japan where it is known as whisky, and Ireland and America, where it is spelt with an ?e?, whiskey. In recent years there have been many new countries making whisky for the first time. The most famous of these is Taiwan. Their Kavalan brand astonished the world by winning some major awards. The hot and humid weather in Taiwan is similar to Israel.

Fast forward to 2012, a few Hi-Tech?ists led by Gal Kalkshtein, dreamt big and decided to bring authentic whisky to the Holy Land. No corners were cut. They employed the late Dr. Jim Swan, one of the most respected gurus of the whisky world, as a consultant. He was the advisor to Kavalan and a specialist in whisky production in hot countries. Tomer Goren, ex brewer, whisky fanatic and now Master Distiller, became the chef. He worked at both Tomintoul and Springbank in Scotland. Springbank is one of my favorite distilleries. It is like a time capsule there, unchanged from a previous age.

The name Milk & Honey could not be more Biblical. The Promised Land was referred to as a Land of Milk & Honey. I have read that in days gone by, before modern quality control, Scots added milk and honey to their whisky to make it more palatable. I do not know if it is true, but as I always say, you shouldn?t spoil a good story by the truth. The first thing you notice is the garish logo. It is of a bull decorated in the blue and black stripes of a bumble bee. Why the bull? ?Well, we tried it with a cow first, but the bull looked better!? was the answer!

I decided to visit them in south Tel Aviv. I arrived at what was once a bakery not far from Jaffa, and within walking distance of the sea. I entered nondescript door and had the feeling that I had entered a nightclub. The visitors? center is in the brand colors. There are colorful graffiti style whisky messages on the walls and a number of workers buzzing about wearing M&H polo shirts. All were young, smiling and they gave a feeling of liveliness and creativity. You certainly felt the spirit and energy of the Israeli start up.

The proof in the pudding was in the eating. When I sat down to taste I was offered one dram aged in a barrel previously used to age pomegranate wine. There was another matured in a barrel in which the C Blanc du Castel (one of our finest Chardonnays) was fermented, and aged sur lies. I immediately felt the creativity and the Israeli penchant for trying something new, pushing the boundaries, experimenting just for the fun of it all. The M&H team is having a ball with their cask specials.

Looking through the glass windows into the distillery, I wondered what I would find. Would it be ?whisky want to be? or a Heath Robinson operation run by amateurs, who were able to talk the talk. I have visited many distilleries in my life, including a week-long tour to Speyside, followed a year later by a visit to Islay and Campbeltown. I am pleased to report that immediately I entered, it felt like an authentic, whisky distillery. It is big compared with other Israeli distilleries, but like a spot on the nose compared to most small distilleries in Scotland.

There were two large pot stills. One, the wash still, was a refugee from Romania of all places. The other, the spirit still, was state of the art from Germany. Ingredients are paramount.? Malted barley comes from England. Peated barley from the Czech Republic. The water is Israeli, but only after it has been treated in their water laboratory. There were casks everywhere; inside, outside, in the corridors, along the walls, almost up the walls. If you landed from outer space, you might think you had arrived in an antique shop specializing in barrels of different origins, shapes and sizes.

They have over 1,500 casks. These include bourbon casks from America, sherry butts from Spain, whisky casks from Scotland and wine barrels from Israel. Most famous is the STR cask, specially developed by Dr. Swan. This is a wine barrel that has been shaved, toasted and then re-charred. It was designed for hot climate maturation, to advance positive flavors and negate the harsh ones. When you enter the official cask room, you are hit by the seductive smell of whisky soaked oak and alcohol. It is like waking up in the center of a brandy-soaked Christmas cake.

The climate is the most significant Israeli effect on the whisky. It can be hot, with a high humidity, particularly on the coast. This accelerates the aging process and could be a problem, but M&H turn it to their advantage. The angel?s share, which is the evaporation, can be as much as 11% in Tel Aviv. Imagine producing a quality, expensive product and signing off 11% before you start. In Scotland, the angel?s share is between 2-4%. Maybe in the Holy Land, the angels are blessed. Being players and tinkerers, M&H are having fun experimenting. Casks are sent for maturation in different micro climates. Some have even been sent to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. Here the angel?s share can be up to 25%! Fortunately for M&H, the whisky ages more quickly and so will not be left there for too long. However, if you are a whisky loving angel, that is clearly the place to be.

M&H has walked a tightrope between gaining respect of the whisky intelligentsia by their authenticity, and at the same showing the Israeli chutzpa, creativity and ingenuity. It seems they have succeeded on both fronts.

In 2017 they launched Israel?s first authentic whisky, matured for three years in cask. In cold climates a malt whisky may be aged for, say, ten years before being released. There are no whisky laws in Israel, so they followed the acceptable norm in Scotland.

I was hosted on my visit by Tal Chotiner, who has done everything in the spirit world. He has been involved in every facet of the spirits and liquor trade and knows the market backwards. He has been a bartender, bar/ restaurant owner, marketer, brand ambassador, educator, consultant, journalist, broadcaster and producer ? and I have probably missed a few. He has experience at every level of operation from an Israeli start up distillery to Diageo, the largest spirit company in the world. M&H is slightly exotic and therefore of interest to whisky geeks. It certainly makes them a whole lot more credible to have someone who is knowledgeable, known and respected representing them in export markets. They export to 20 countries already and have received impressive third party recognition internationally. They are certainly going in a good direction.

The M&H Classic is a 3year old whisky aged in 75% bourbon casks, 20% red wine STR casks and 5% virgin oak. It was light, aperitif style, but not lacking in character. I kept returning to it during the tasting. The aromas were enchanting, if fleeting. Nice sweetness, a little zesty, some citrusy notes, but overall delicate. Certainly, there was more on the nose than flavor, but it was clearly an authentic whisky nonetheless. When I arrived home, I did a comparative blind tasting alongside a 12 year old Scotch malt whisky and the Israeli expression showed very favorably.

I was also pleased to taste the M&H Elements Red Wine Cask whisky. Many moons ago I initiated the idea of Bruichladdich Distillery finishing two whiskies in red wine barrels from Carmel Winery. I still have the Bruichladdich 1989 and 1994, 12 year old, and 1989, 18 year old, with ?additional cask enhancement? of kosher wine casks. They are beautiful whiskies. The Elements Red Wine Cask has floral notes and a definable winey nose and a touch of drying tannin on the finish. The Elements Peated expression was as you expect peaty and smoky. They import casks from Islay for this. It is not medicinal Laphroaig style, nor does the peat over power the other aromas. It is a nice, well balanced dram.

Echoing Macallan in the old halcyon days, but on a rather smaller scale, M&H took the trouble to have kosher Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherries made and aged in sherry butts for one year. The Sherry Cask Whisky was my favorite of the Elements. It was slightly richer, with a sweet dried fruit nose and the flavor seemed to have more length than the other whiskies. They tell me this is the first and only malt whisky aged in kosher sherry casks. My favorite of the special expressions was the Cognac Cask. It was warm, complex and had great length. That is something to look forward to.

The M&H Levantine Gin is a wonderful product. It starts like the whisky. The base spirit is 100% malted barley, which is mashed at the distillery and distilled in the pot still. They then add the juniper and botanicals hand sourced from the Lewinsky market in Tel Aviv. These include za?ater, lemon peel, orange, chamomile, lemon verbena, cinnamon and black pepper. These are then distilled for a third time in a small, adorable, almost domestic sized 250 liter pot still. This is not a gin dominated by prominent juniper aromas, which is better for a gin and tonic. It has lifted aromas that should be enjoyed in a balloon glass or drunk in a Martini cocktail. This a super, aromatic Israeli expression of gin.

The Milk and Honey Visitors Center is a great place to visit. A tour, explanation and tasting costs NIS 50. There is also a shop with the full range of products and some M&H souvenirs. Certainly, whisky mavens will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of Israeli whisky. Israelis should be proud of this product, which makes a first-class gift for Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year?s, Novi God or Sylvester?s. Sipping, sharing and savoring the first quality Israeli whisky in 5,000 years, seems a great way to say good riddance to the appalling year of 2020.

Of course, we spit in wine tastings, but they would have looked at me askance if I had done the same to their precious whisky. As we finished the thirteenth glass of the tasting, Chotiner returned to his barman roots and made me an M&H Martini, with Levantine Gin of course. Instead of adding an olive, as accepted international style, he instead drizzled a drop of olive oil into the glass to give it an Israeli slant. Sated, satisfied and very impressed, I was pleased I had a taxi to take me home.

Adam Montefiore is a drinks industry veteran, who has advanced Israeli wine for 35 years. He is known as the English voice of Israeli wine. He is the wine writer for the Jerusalem Post. www.adammontefiore.com

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Celebrating Syrah

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Most Improved Winery

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WOMEN IN WINE

When I first became involved in the wine trade in the UK, it was very much a man?s world. There would be alcohol infused late lunches, tastings would be likened to a men?s drinking club and most of the production chain from vineyard to sommelier or retailer would be the preserve of men only. To say the wine trade was sexist and chauvinist would not be an exaggeration. As regards the vineyard and winery, there was a feeling that the work was too physical for women, and outside the gates of the winery, sales, tastings and schmoozing, were always seen as a men only pursuit. Furthermore, in those days, even the wine writers and critics, was almost exclusively the preserve of men.

The prejudice went even deeper. In Catholic countries, including France, Italy and Spain, women winemakers were regarded with suspicion well into the last century. It sounds primitive now, but it was thought the menstrual cycle would affect the wine in a negative way. In the Jewish kosher world, women winemakers were frowned upon for a different reason. The religious authorities believed in separating the genders. At kosher wineries, the workers were exclusively men.

Gradually overseas, the barriers broke down. In the 1970?s and 1980?s the first women became Master of Wine and Master Sommeliers. This was accompanied by findings that women were in fact better tasters than men and women pioneers blew away the cobwebs of smoke-filled rooms and pin stripe suits. Fortunately, we have developed as a society since then and women are now involved in every aspect of the wine chain, but it has not become so common as not to still be an occasional talking point.

In Israel there were two pioneers who showed the way. One was Tali Sandovski, winemaker at the Golan Heights Winery. She became the first female winemaker in Israel in 1986. She ensured continuity as the winery made its way in the early years, almost with a different winemaker every year, then she was a steady hand as the baton was passed from Jim Klein to Victor Schoenfeld in 1992. Since then, she has been the ever present, loyal lieutenant to the head winemaker. Tali is very clever, talented, yet quiet, modest and undemanding. She has played an important part in the winery?s success. She has never demanded limelight and never received the credit she deserves, but she has been a permanent fixture in all the winery?s triumphs.

The equivalent in the winery office was the late Carmi Lebenstein, who recently passed away in such tragic circumstances, well before her time. She was virtually born in a bottle. Her family were wine traders. She herself was a successful retailer and then joined Carmel Mizrahi in 1984 in sales. She progressed to become sales manager and then marketing manager of Carmel, when it was then by far the largest winery with 75% of the market. She was street smart, savvy and knew all the tricks and shticks of the wine world. Carmi showed she could compete in this competitive, manly atmosphere, by giving as good as she got. Though tiny in build, she was big in stature and could use her sharp tongue and elbows as well as any man. As a marketer, she was innovative, creative and always thinking out of the box.

I worked with both Tali and Carmi, and I must say I never regarded them as an unusual species because they were women. They were just both so good at their jobs, that the issue of gender was irrelevant. However, looking back with hindsight, they were trail blazers on the Israel wine scene.

Since then women abound in our industry, but it was not always that way. I worked at one winery where the Rabbi for a time flatly refused for a woman winemaker to join the winemaking team. Then for another, when one of the associate winemakers was not Jewish, which she emphasized by wearing a crucifix to work! Today I am pleased to say each of the largest wineries has women winemakers: Anat Keider Gershon & Shiri Rosenthal Kobe at Barkan, Meital Damari at Carmel and Dorit Segev & Tali Sandovski at the Golan Heights Winery. Winemakers like Irith Boxer Shank (Barkan), Orna Chillag (Chillag), Naama Sorkin (Dalton, Ortal), Yael Sandler (Binyamina, Ella Valley) and Nitzan Swersky (Ahat) have ensured that the woman winemaker in a winery is not as unusual as it once was.

One of the highest profile winemaker ? educators today is Roni Saslove. She was winemaker of Saslove Winery and has become one of our best wine educators and communicators. Her courses are held at the Seren DPT wine venue in Jaffa. She has also become one of our most visible wine media personalities. She is so articulate in English and Hebrew and exudes warmth, enthusiasm and professionalism. She is currently co-authoring a new book to be called ?Wine Journey – Israel Adventure?.

The first female sommelier of note was Hadas Ezer, of the famed Keren Restaurant in the 1990?s. Some of our best sommeliers today are women. Before being a winemaker, Yael Sandler was a sommelier and she became the first woman to win the Yarden Award for Best Sommelier. The two leading sommeliers at the moment are Mor Bernstein, current holder of the Yarden Sommelier Award and Shira Tsiddon of the Norman Hotel, winner of the award for the best wine list and wine program. The number of Israelis who have gained the WSET Diploma (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) may be comfortably counted on two hands. Sandler, Bernstein and Tsiddon have each gained this important, international recognition in the last few years.

Believe it or not, the first female manager of an Israeli winery was Rosa Shor in the early part of the 20th century. Her husband Shmuel was the second generation of the Shor family winery, founded in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1848. It was the earliest of all the existing wineries. When Shmuel passed away, Rosa took over the management of the winery. This included moving the winery from the Old City, and setting it up again at Beit Israel in Western Jerusalem in 1925. Being deep in the Haredi world and embedded in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, it was certainly a milestone event.

In modern times, we have had quite a few women winery executives. The longest lasting CEO of a large winery was Anat Rushansky Levy. She was CEO of the Golan Heights Winery for ten years. Previously she was marketing manager, then export manager for the USA. She certainly broke a glass ceiling too. Of course, a woman reaching the pinnacle, is not a guarantee of success and Levy followed on from two legendary CEO?s, Segev Yerovam and Shalom Blayer, who were loved and respected by everyone. She was always compared to them.

The lesson is that a successful CEO is a good one, and an unsuccessful CEO is a bad one, and sex has nothing to do with it. I came across one female CEO who waltzed in from outside the wine trade, assumed she understood everything and thought everyone else was stupid. She was more aggressive and more of a bully than any man, did not do the work or make the effort to learn the wine trade and was an abject failure. On the credit side, Ronit Badler was someone who was professional and made a good impression whilst she was CEO at Galil Mountain.

The latest new manager of a winery is Michal Akerman. She is curly headed, with a great smile and friendly manner. As agronomist, she introduced the concept of ecological vineyards at Tabor Winery. Michal always bright eyed, keen to talk and share, is now the manager of Tabor. There are winemakers that manage wineries, but she is the first agronomist to do so.

As far as the business of wine is concerned, I remember sitting next to the export manager of Olivia at some course many years ago. That was the first time I met Yael Gai. In 2007, she was appointed the International Marketing Manager of the Golan Heights Winery. As the Golan Heights Winery is Israel?s leading exporter, and Yarden arguably Israel?s main wine ambassador, Gai has become a major spokesman and representative of Israeli wine internationally.

For the last fourteen years she has been bringing Israeli wine to the forefront in Europe and the Far East with style, attention to detail, with a sharp business sense, and the smarts and the ability to sell image, a perception of quality, Brand Israel, as well as containers of Yarden, Gamla and Hermon wines. She is the Foreign Minister and an ongoing illustration of how trading in wine is certainly not only for men. To reinforce the point, the export managers of Barkan (Lea Lehavi) and Carmel (Etti Edri), are today also women.

Two other marketers I greatly respect. One is Carmit Ehrenreich, ex Golan Heights Winery, Galil Mountain, Bazelet Hagolan and she is now marketing manager of Jerusalem Vineyard Winery. The other is Vered Ben Saidon, owner of Tura Winery. Both are passionate, dynamic, pushy in a good way, with excellent marketing instincts.

Amongst the wine critics, the main female player is Mira Eitan, who for many years has written about wine, beer and spirits. For a period of time she was editor of the Wine & Gourmet Magazine. Then she worked at Carmel as Public Relations Manager. She now writes for Shulchan and Sanedrink. Once she was the only woman invited to wine tastings, but that is also changing.

Thankfully Israeli wine has developed and become more enlightened. Women are now deeply embedded in the wine trade and they greatly enrich us in every way. For those cynical, doubting Thomases, who are still reluctant to take women seriously, they should know that most of the wine in Israel is purchased ?..by women!

Wine trade veteran Adam Montefiore has advanced Israeli wine for thirty five years, and is referred to as the English voice of Israeli wine. www.adammontefiore.com

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Israel’s First Cult Wine

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Return To Zion

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TURKISH DELIGHT

Turkey is a fascinating wine country, with a history as long as wine itself. I have always believed we should be less Israel-ocentric and take time to learn from our neighbors. Remember, kosher is not a country and Israel is not an island. We belong to a region; the Eastern Mediterranean wine region. Of course, it is a region with borders defined by war, discord and religion. The relations between Israel & Lebanon, Greece & Turkey, and Cyprus with Northern Cyprus, are scarcely made in heaven. There are things in common though. The sun, sea, mountains, stony soils, mud coffee, the anise flavored spirit (Ouzo, Raki or Arak), the east med cuisine…and the wine of course. One should not over simplify things, but in general, Christians make wine in Cyprus, Greece and Lebanon; Jews are the winemakers in Israel, and Muslims make the wine in Turkey (and in Northern Cyprus for that matter.)  However, this fertile crescent was the hub of the wine trade over 2,000 years ago, the France and Italy of ancient times in terms of production and the cradle of wine culture.

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Hail to our new Master of Wine

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New Year Means Wine

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A WINE CAREER IN FIVE WINES

I was recently set an interesting challenge. Name five wines to represent your wine career. Sitting at home, feeling self-indulgent and nostalgic in equal measure, I have decided to have a go.
My earliest wine memory was drinking Palwin as a child during Passover Seder Nights. Sweet and alcoholic, I thought it was a naughty treat. To most Brits, Palwin seemed almost to be a part of Judaism itself! The first wine I purchased was a bland brand called Hirondelle, which was cheap, inoffensive and a good beginner’s wine. The first truly memorable wine I drank was Château Mouton Rothschild 1971. It was my wine epiphany and my introduction to the world of fine wines.

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ALL IN OUR HANDS

“The wine revolution is over” Guy Haran said to me. “Now we must begin forging an identity for Israeli wine, and wine tourism will be an integral part of this.” Haran is one of the young Turks of Israeli wine, part of the new, younger generation taking the wine industry forward. His expertise is broad, but his prime interest is wine tourism.
Wine tourism in Israel starts with one arm tied behind its back, and the restriction is self-inflicted. Wineries instead of being part of the agricultural scene, like everywhere else in the world, are tucked away in industrial estates. This is because the authorities see wine as an industry, rather than as an off shoot of agriculture.
In the world of wine tourism, we don’t have a natural agritourism like in Italy, where the local winery, vineyard, restaurant, hotel and olive press co-exist and blend into the nearby village. We can’t boast of sensational, breathtaking views, like in Stellenbosch, nor do we have a wine route seemingly designed for wine tourism, as in California’s Napa Valley.

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SHOR FAMILY, MONTEFIORE & RETURN TO ZION

Zion is a winery that has been around longer than any. It has been known as Zion Winery from the 1940’s onwards, but previously to that was known at different times as the Shor family winery, Shor Bros or AM Shor Winery. It was founded in 1848 and remains the oldest of any existing winery. During all this time it has been owned by the Shor family, managed by the Shor family and uniquely, even the winemaker has always been from the Shor family. There is no winery in Israel that can compete with this richness of heritage, longevity and continuity. It was around long before names like Carmel, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Rishon Le Zion and Zichron Ya’acov came to dominate the Israel wine scene. Why this is interesting is that most experts think Israeli wine began in the 1880’s, but in fact winemaking continued throughout the previous years, even if it was low key. Jews and Palestinian Christians always made wine, but it was more domestic and local, certainly not a commercial industry.

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THE UNFINISHED WINERY

Teperberg Winery is without doubt in my mind the most improved winery in the last decade. Therefore, how appropriate it is, that this year they are celebrating their 150th anniversary. That is ancient for an Israeli winery. Most Israeli wineries were founded in the last thirty years. Out of the existing wineries, only the ones owned by the Shor family are older.

Teperberg Winery is now managed by the 5th generation, Moti Teperberg, who is also Israel?s longest serving current winery CEO. He has been at the helm since 1984. It is the third largest winery in Israel, after Barkan and Carmel, and also the largest family owned winery.

The family story began in 1827 when Avraham Teperberg fled Odessa to avoid compulsory conscription to the army and turned up in Austria. There, he picked up his German sounding name and was exposed to the wine trade for the first time. In 1850 he made Aliyah to Israel and in 1852 he began trading in wines and spirits. He was particularly successful in selling to Christian Arabs, German Templars and pilgrims.

His son, Zeev Zaide Teperberg, decided to establish a winery in 1870. It was situated between Yehudim and Chabad Streets in the Old City of Jerusalem, in a place occupied by a car park today. To put this in perspective, it was not a winery like we know today. It was a small, domestic affair, producing sweet wine in casks for use as Kiddush wine for Jews or Altar & Communion wine for Christians. The grapes included Dabouki and Hebroni, grown near Bethlehem and Hebron.

The third generation was Mordechai Shimon Teperberg. The company included a winery, a distribution business and wine shops in both Jaffa and Jerusalem. At one stage they even represented the wines of Carmel Mizrahi. However, in 1921 there was a debilitating, costly court case with Carmel, over the ownership of the logo. Both wineries claimed the logo of the two spies carrying a large bunch of grapes. The compromise was in Carmel?s favor and they continue to use this logo until today. In 1925, the British Mandate ruled that all industries should leave the Old City of Jerusalem and the winery was moved to Romema in Western Jerusalem.

In 1925 there was a joint venture between Segal and Teperberg to found a distillery in the Templar community of Sarona. The Segal bothers were to be the expert distillers and Teperberg?s responsibility was distribution, sales and marketing. The project failed. Raw materials were too expensive and at around the same time, the British Mandate permitted cheaper imports. The costs of the court case, failure of the distillery and tough trading times, impinged on the success of the winery. Mordechai Shimon wanted to leave the drinks business, but was persuaded to stay on by his Rabbi. In 1929 the winery went bankrupt. This means that of the wineries with roots that go back to the middle of the 19th century (Arza, Hacormim, Zion & Teperberg), only the Shor-Zion-1848 Winery branch of the Shor family has made wine continuously! All the others had breaks in wine production.

The Teperberg family winery was revived after the founding of the state in 1951 by Menachem Teperberg, Moti?s father, along with his brother Yitzhak. Initially there was a joint venture with a member of the Shor family, but later, the Teperbergs continued on their own. The winery was situated in Mahane Yehuda, and it was named Efrat, after the route the grapes travelled to Jerusalem from Bethlehem and Hebron. Menahem wisely decided to focus on wine and left the retail part of the business to another brother. In the mid-1960s, Efrat was a tiny winery harvesting just over 100 tons of grapes. The large wineries were then Carmel Mizrahi, Eliaz and Friedman-Tnuva, followed by Carmei Zion. These would later become known as Carmel Winery, Binyamina, Barkan and Segal.

In 1964, Efrat Winery moved to Moza, just off the Tel Aviv Jerusalem highway. By 1990 they were harvesting 250 tons of grapes. They produced inexpensive wines, kiddush wines and alcohol. I had the pleasure of meeting Menahem when he was ninety years old. He talked and talked, and I scribbled frantically. It was enlightening and interesting to scratch away the cobwebs of family folklore to get to the real detail of family history.

Moti Teperberg, the 5th generation, joined the business in 1976 and became CEO, at the young age of thirty-one. He has a brother who is a judge, a sister who was a school principal and has five children. His son, Amotz, worked at the winery until recently. He recently launched a gin with an innovative look, called Yu Gin. Amotz is talented and well respected in the trade. Hopefully he will return to the winery to keep the chain of succession going.

Through the nineties the winery began to grow. They were a strong presence in the Jerusalem area, but not so well known nationwide. The marketing was always rather dubious and the wines sold because of price and hechsher, rather than quality. There was no hint of what would follow.

By the year 2000, they were producing nearly 3 million bottles of wine, spirits and grape juice. As the winery grew larger, it was clear that it had out grown Moza. It was one of the most crowded, messy and chaotic wineries I have ever seen with the floor awash with a spaghetti junction of pipes everywhere!

The astonishing thing was that Moti Teperberg, who grew up in a shtetl of liquid religion (grape juice and kiddush wine), had the vision to see there was a different way. The hyper active Moti, more a businessman than wine guy, was to prove that not only he had a vision and but also would create his legacy.

The first sign of ambition was appointing an internationally trained winemaker for the first time. Shiki Rauchberger became the winemaker of Efrat Winery in 2002. He had studied at UC Davis in America and worked with Peter Stern, who was the wine consultant of the Golan Heights Winery for twenty years and then of Carmel Winery for a further five years. He was also winemaker of Herzog Wine Cellars. Stern was arguably the key individual in the quality revolution of both Israeli (with Yarden) and Kosher wine (with Herzog.) Shiki credits him with being the main influence on his career. Shiki became winemaker of Carmel?s Rishon Le Zion Cellars from 1993, where he was very respected, until Moti Teperberg tapped him to plot the metamorphoses from Efrat to Teperberg Winery. He is a very talented winemaker, who is most happy when being amongst the vineyards. He is also a truly nice guy.

Then, in 2006, Moti Teperberg moved the winery to a new, spacious site at Tzora, near Beit Shemesh (not far from Dir Rafat Monastery, Tzora Vineyards & Mony Winery). The winemaking team was strengthened with the addition of French born, Olivier Fraty, who trained in Bordeaux and great inroads were made in connecting the vineyards to the wines via the winery. The more recent addition to the winemaking team is the American born Daniel Friedenberg. Together the winemaking trio represent an impressive team, with everyone coming from different backgrounds, with different experiences.

For the first time in 140 years, Teperberg started making wine in the vineyards. Their vineyards range from the Golan Heights to the Negev, but most are situated in the Judean Foothills and the Judean Hills. The first attempt at rebranding introduced the name ?Teperberg 1870? to the Israeli market. This was a half hearted marketing job and did not really succeed.

After numerous changes in marketing strategy and personnel, the third master stroke of Moti Teperberg was employing a smart, meticulous marketing professional, Roy Harel. With great precision, and at no little cost, they rebranded the winery using the logo of a large ?tet? on the label (the first letter of the family name in Hebrew), basing the new look on history and family. The success of this image is clear. Wine buyers have been heard entering wine stores, and asking for wines with the ?tet? on the label! The new brands ranged from the entry level Vision, Impression, Inspire, Essence up to the premier label Legacy. The wines perform at every level and due to the smart marketing, the wines also have an impressive presence on the shelves.? The Essence Rose, Inspire Famitage (a Dabouki blend) and Inspire Devotage (Malbec Marsalan) are favorites of mine. The Legacy Cabernet Franc is outstanding. The new Teperberg Winery is as far removed from the old Efrat Winery as it could be. They now produce 6 million bottles of wine a year and harvest up to 7,000 tons of grapes annually. The turnaround during the last decade has been very impressive.

However, visiting the winery, gives one the feeling they moved in yesterday. There is no problem of space, but the winery still looks as though it is half finished. Offices and a tasting room are still in container like temporary rooms. The winery is in the heart of wine tourism country, yet there is no visitors center. Every time I have met with Moti in the last 15 years, he has assured me the visitors center is next on the list. I won?t hold my breath! In my view having a visitors? center and a professional training department responsible for wine education, and succeeding in hotels & restaurants and export markets, are all connected by a thread. They require a similar expertise and an investment in creating image. Selling image not just wine, is crucial to the success of a quality winery. The Golan Heights Winery taught us that in the 1990?s. As it is, Teperberg is the only one of the ten largest wineries without a visitors? centers. Slightly absurd for the third largest winery in the country.

Teperberg Winery have launched a few wines to celebrate their 150th anniversary. The ones I liked the most were as follows:

TEPERBERG IMPRESSION FRENCH COLOMBARD 2019. A delightful white wine. Fresh, fragrant with a flowery aroma and a refreshing finish. Only 11.4% alcohol, which makes a nice change. NIS 40

TEPERBERG INSPIRE CABERNET SAUVIGNON SYRAH 2019. A great drinking wine. Very fruity, with mouth filling flavor, good structure and the soft fruit flavors continue through into the long finish. NIS 65

TEPERBERG PROVIDENCE 2016. This the prestige, icon wine launched earlier in the year. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot with a little Syrah, all grown in the Upper Galilee. The wine is deep with concentrated aromas of black berry fruit. It is full bodied, complex with full fruit flavor backed with nuances from the oak aging. It has a long well-balanced finish. NIS 250

The Unfinished Symphony may have been unfinished, but it was still by Schubert! The Teperberg Winery is unfinished, but this does not detract from the amazing strides taken in the last ten years. There are wineries making good wine with appalling marketing, and vice versa. To Teperberg Winery?s credit, the wines are very good at every price point, and they had a relaunch which did justice to the quality of the wines.

Avraham Teperberg entered the wine business as a trader. Zeev Zaide Teperberg founded a winery. Mordechai Shimon Teperberg engineered to move from the Old City to Western Jerusalem, and then the business became a victim of the economic problems of the time, the business possibly suffering from having too many interests. Menahem Teperberg, Moti?s father, reestablished a winery and made the decision to focus on wine. Moti Teperberg was then the one who brought the winery into the wine world. It only remains for him to finish the job, and then can pass his impressive legacy onto the next generation.

Wine trade veteran Adam Montefiore has advanced Israeli wine for nearly 35 years. He is referred to as the ?English voice of Israeli wine.? He is the wine writer for the Jerusalem Post. www.adammontefiore.com

Photos: Shani Brill, Yeshua Yosef, Teperberg Winery

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THE UNFINISHED WINERY

Teperberg Winery is without doubt in my mind the most improved winery in the last decade. Therefore, how appropriate it is, that this year they are celebrating their 150th anniversary. That is ancient for an Israeli winery. Most Israeli wineries were founded in the last thirty years. Out of the existing wineries, only the ones owned by the Shor family are older.
Teperberg Winery is now managed by the 5th generation, Moti Teperberg, who is also Israel’s longest serving current winery CEO. He has been at the helm since 1984. It is the third largest winery in Israel, after Barkan and Carmel, and also the largest family owned winery.
The family story began in 1827 when Avraham Teperberg fled Odessa to avoid compulsory conscription to the army and turned up in Austria. There, he picked up his German sounding name and was exposed to the wine trade for the first time. In 1850 he made Aliyah to Israel and in 1852 he began trading in wines and spirits. He was particularly successful in selling to Christian Arabs, German Templars and pilgrims.
His son, Zeev Zaide Teperberg, decided to establish a winery in 1870. It was situated between Yehudim and Chabad Streets in the Old City of Jerusalem, in a place occupied by a car park today. To put this in perspective, it was not a winery like we know today. It was a small, domestic affair, producing sweet wine in casks for use as Kiddush wine for Jews or Altar & Communion wine for Christians. The grapes included Dabouki and Hebroni, grown near Bethlehem and Hebron.
The third generation was Mordechai Shimon Teperberg. The company included a winery, a distribution business and wine shops in both Jaffa and Jerusalem. At one stage they even represented the wines of Carmel Mizrahi. However, in 1921 there was a debilitating, costly court case with Carmel, over the ownership of the logo. Both wineries claimed the logo of the two spies carrying a large bunch of grapes. The compromise was in Carmel’s favor and they continue to use this logo until today. In 1925, the British Mandate ruled that all industries should leave the Old City of Jerusalem and the winery was moved to Romema in Western Jerusalem.

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the jerusalem post

THE ONE AND ONLY

I first met Yair Haidu in 1994. He was then a tour guide with a focus on wine, who led a memorable visit of all the Golan Heights Winery employees to Bordeaux and Cognac. This role of ?wine tour guide? combined his love for sharing, his deep store of knowledge and what was for him a growing interest in wine.

He was then tall, thin as rake, with cropped spiky hair, round rimmed glasses, and a broad cheek to cheek, post box smile. He was a great raconteur, loved telling a story, was witty, enjoyed a laugh and how he loved to talk?.not a bad quality in a tour guide! He was relatively new to wine, but steeped in culture from the cradle, fiercely intelligent with a passion to learn and absorb knowledge. In the army he had served as a tour guide and this was a first career initially only in Israel, then later in France too, all the while graduating more and more towards wine, attracted like a moth to a flame.

Fast forward a decade or two and Yair Haidu is arguably the number one wine expert in Israel. Yet he is not a winemaker and does not work for a winery. He is neither a sommelier in a restaurant, nor is he a wine critic. However, he has the respect of the entire wine trade, particularly in Israel and Europe, as someone with unique knowledge, understanding and experience. He is famous for being who he is, more than for his achievements. The person it seems is greater than the sum of his career parts. His image is built on his persona, his character, his knowledge and his manner. The way he uses his strengths and how he interacts with people is why he has arrived at the pinnacle of Israeli wine.

His first main wine position was as manager of the Israel Wine Academy in 1996.The Golan Heights Winery wanted to establish a wine school, Yair Haidu was approached to manage it. If the truth be told, the Israel Wine Academy was not a great success. The idea was ahead of its time and maybe it was too ambitious for a winery to open a wine school, but Yair Haidu used the position to the maximum benefit to establish himself as an impressive figure. He was on the Israeli wine map.

After the Wine Academy, he joined Riedel, as the regional manager for Europe in 2000. Riedel of course is the most famous wine glass company in the world. This opened the doors of the wineries of Europe and established him as figure in the wine world. Yair Haidu began to build an international reputation. He was even selected to participate on the tasting panel of La Revue du Vin, France?s most important wine magazine.

In 2013, when El Al Airlines wanted to upgrade their wine package, they approached Yair Haidu and he became their wine manager. He selected the wines, trained flight attendants, introduced an innovative ?wines of the month? program and wrote informative wine lists, which won awards. His other major project in the last decade was becoming Brand Director for Nude, a line of designer glassware especially created by Haidu on behalf of the Sisecam Group, in Turkey.

Yair Haidu is also somewhat of an enigma. There should be numerous articles about him, but most of what I found when researching were shallow press releases. I have known him for 25 years, but I wanted to scratch beneath the well-polished surface and find out what I did not know, so we arranged to meet. Even though I have been around a long time, I found our discussion fascinating and absorbing. I was writing frantically while he talked. It was rather like a wagon of ripe fruit passing you by, and you grab what you can.

When you meet Yair Haidu, he is impeccably dressed, usually smart casual. He may be wearing a tight-fitting blue cardigan, a white shirt, narrow jeans, occasionally with a white scarf or sweater thrown strategically over his shoulders like an ornament. He leans forward with a slight bow of the head when he meets people. He is instinctively friendly, unfailingly courteous, with an old world, European politeness. You almost expect him to click his heels like an Austrian Count when he shakes your hand.

I asked him where his interest in wine came from, and he went back to his childhood, when from the age of 10 he would dissect the ingredients of the dishes cooked by his French mother. He was always acutely aware of tastes and smells. His father was the famous Andre Hajdu, the Hungarian Israeli classical music composer, recipient of the Israeli Prize. Yair, who was bought up as religious, was one of six children. It was a trip to Paris just before the army, that opened a door in his mind regarding wine. He was immediately attracted to the wine culture, the dust on the bottles in dusky cellars, the wine talk, the atmosphere and the people. He began compulsively buying and collecting wine. He remembers purchasing wines like the Yarden Cabernets of 1985/6, Carmel Private Collection 1988 and the Herzl edition from Askalon-Segal.

He studied philosophy at the Hebrew University and thought that an academic career beckoned, possibly focusing on philosophy, art or history, but wine nudged them aside. The wine that really pushed him through the door was a Ch?teau Figeac 1959.? This was his epiphany wine.

When talking about wine, his eyes light up and he trawls up from somewhere, memories of tastes of wines from way back. Jeff Morgan of Covenant Winery describes him as a wine impresario: ?I have sat down with Yair and was left with the feeling he knew my wines better than I do.? He has an intense curiosity, prodigious memory, a very well-developed tasting ability, and the imagination and vocabulary to vocalize it.

He describes Israel?s wine evolution and revolution this way. The 1970s was the rebirth of Cabernet Sauvignon. The 1980s represented the move to the mountains. In the 1990s small was beautiful. The 2000s was a decade of international education. In the 2010s Israeli wine discovered the Mediterranean. As for the 2020s, this will be the era of terroir and authenticity.

When I asked about grape varieties, he said these are the least interesting things in the discussion. He used Sancerre and Chablis as examples of regions, where the place and terroir, ends up offering added value over and above the grape variety (respectively Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.) He went on to explain that Cabernet Sauvignon was a commodity. It could be NIS 50 or $5,000. The heritage of place is far more important than the variety. He clarified ?Wine should express a site and a person.? As for grape varieties, he said they are like musical instruments. It is what you do with them and how you use them that makes them relevant and interesting.

He salutes visionaries like Shimshon Welner, Segev Yerovam, ex CEO?s of the Golan Heights Winery (?in the 80?s and 90?s the Golan was the most significant locomotive in the wine revolution?), and trail blazers like Yair Margalit, Eli Ben Zaken, and Roni James, respectively of Margalit Winery, Domaine du Castel and Tzora Vineyards. Talk to him about any wines from 1976 onwards, and he will have an enlightening opinion honed from his experience and tasting abilities. If you want to find out how wines like Ben Ami 1977, Carmel Special Reserve 1976 and Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 1984 taste like today, he is your man. There is no-one quite like him for tasting and remembering.

He lauds the unprecedented talent of today?s winemakers. He particularly admires winemakers like Gabi Sadan (Kerem Shvo) and Uri Hetz (Chateau Golan) for their search for authenticity and for making wine without embellishment. He also greatly respects Eran Pick MW (Tzora), Ido lewinsohn (Barkan), Asaf Paz (Vitkin) and Itai Lahat (Lahat). He explained to me there was a short path to make a good wine, but he prefers the longer path to make a great, more authentic wine.

Yair Haidu?s latest initiative is an innovative, new start up called Cheers. This is a concept designed to sell a ticket to the wine world and to empower the wine drinker. Prospective customers are invited to complete a clever questionnaire, from which Cheers will ascertain their taste profile. They will then select wines, designed to fit the customer?s needs, knowledge and curiosity. At a cost of NIS 350 a month, the customer will receive a surprise gift box of three wines, personally matched to their needs. Along with the wines they will receive an A4 page telling the story of the wine and winery. Yair Haidu sees himself as a story teller, helping the customer navigate this strangely inaccessible world. The idea is an ongoing journey of discovery, exploration, entertainment and experience.

He tastes 150 wines a week to find suitable wines in the NIS 110-150 category. ?This is a sweet spot where we can find wines to surprise, which we are prepared to stand behind.? Haidu says they are trying to connect with the wine drinker. He aims to build a bridge, create trust and have an ongoing conversation. Certainly, wine lovers and connoisseurs alike, and anyone who wants to learn, should pause to consider what Cheers is offering.

One of the most impressive things about Yair Haidu is that he tastes quietly, with concentrated curiosity in his eyes. He does not boom and pontificate like so many wine experts do, but gives his opinion more like an excited child. With apologies to Winston Churchill, maybe this wine expert with a Hungarian name is still an enigma, wrapped up in French joie de vivre, blended with Israeli creativity. He remains an outsize character inside the cocoon of Israeli wine culture. However, what he has to say and his method of delivery fascinates rather than alienates.? If wine is on the menu, his opinion or view is always worth hearing.

The writer is a wine trade veteran who has advanced Israeli wine for nearly 35 years and is often referred to as the English voice of Israeli wine. www.adammontefiore.com

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the jerusalem post

MAPPING THE WAY

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INTERFERE LESS, RECEIVE MORE

Yonathan Koren is a person of vision. He had a dream to found an organic winery, and did so, with no ifs or buts. When he became enchanted with Portugal as a wine country, he had the idea of setting up a Twinning Wineries concept, matching Israeli and Portuguese wineries. He took it upon himself to talk, schmooze and persuade the relevant authorities. He found support from the Portuguese Embassy in Israel and Israel Portugal Chamber of Commerce, and then from the Wild Douro tourism company in Portugal. Now, it is actually going to happen.

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KATZRIN MEMORIES

Yarden Katzrin 2016 has just been launched, thirty years after the first Katzrin was made in 1990. To put this in perspective, thirty years ago Israeli wine was in a different place entirely…and so was I! In 1986, when I became wine manager for Bass Charrington’s hotel division, I started working with Israeli wines (Yarden, Gamla and Golan) for the first time. When I made Aliyah to Israel, I started working for Israeli wineries in 1990. When I arrived, the situation was as follows. The leading Israeli red wines were Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 1985, Ha’yayin Shel Segal 1988 (Segal’s Wine), and Carmel Rothschild Cabernet Sauvignon 1985. People still talked about the Carmel Special Reserves of 1976 and 1979, and the award winning Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 1984, and at that stage the first Margalit wine, the 1989, had been made but we are talking about individual barrels, so though appreciated, the wine was barely known. In those days I used to think the best red wines were made by Yarden, followed by Segal and the best white wines were also made by Yarden, followed by Tishbi (then Baron.)