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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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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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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the jerusalem post

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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ARTICLES

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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the jerusalem post

Hail to our new Master of Wine

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ARTICLES

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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ARTICLES

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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ARTICLES

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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ARTICLES

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 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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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.)

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HAIDU

He 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.
Paradoxically, none of the many things he has done in the world of wine has contributed to the building of this image. True he has written articles, taught wine, lectured, been on tasting panels…..even written a wine guide book. Yet, uniquely he is not associated with any one thing in particular.

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TEARS OF BACCHUS

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THE JOYS OF DISTILLED WINE

Whisky has become so popular in Israel. Bars have long lines of different age expressions of the famous brands. Feinschmeckers boast about the latest single malt they have bought in Duty Free. Many have forgotten its rich cousin called brandy, that is no longer prominent on the bar, or top of the list for connoisseurs. Certainly, in Israel, anyway. They are both distilled products that reek of heritage and quality. Whisky is distilled beer made from grain, whilst brandy is distilled wine made from grapes. They are both distilled in a pot still and matured in barrel. However, in America and China, brandy, particularly in its noblest incarnation, cognac, is more popular than ever.

I was reminded of brandy when I visited a recent pop up bar by Hennessy Cognac in one of Israel?s hippest Tel Aviv nightclubs. Now of course, all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac. Cognac is a little town in western France which contains the best brandies in the world. Hennessy is the royalty of the Cognac brand. It is part of the LVHM luxury group, that owns Moet et Chandon, Krug, Dom Perignon, Chateau d?Yquem, Chateau Cheval Blanc, amongst many others. Hennessy is the world?s largest selling Cognac with 50% of the market. It was founded in 1765 by James Hennessy.

The market is dominated of the big four: Hennessy, Martell, Remy Martin and Courvoisier. I visited Martell a few times in the 1980?s, because the company I worked for in the UK sold their cognac and visited Remy Martin with colleagues from the Golan Heights Winery in the 1990?s. We noticed the vineyard planted at the distillery. Those who visit the Golan Heights Winery today, should know the idea of the vineyard in front of the winery gates, stemmed from that visit.

I attended a tasting conducted by Hennessy brand ambassador Benjamin Smith. He explained how the Cognac region is made up of six wine regions, also known as crus, growing white wine grapes. Cognac is a protected and revered area. One kilometer outside demarcated region, and the resulting spirit has to be called brandy and not cognac. Smith told me it is the largest white wine growing region in the world. The main grape is Ugni Blanc, otherwise known as Trebbiano.? Ugni Blanc was in Israel and used pre-State to make white wines. The white wine is then double distilled in a pot still. The resulting eaux de vie (a clear distilled spirit) is selected, put in oak casks for maturation and then blended by the master distiller ? blender. As Benjamin Smith described it, the challenge is to make a consistent cognac, using what are by definition, inconsistent ingredients.

There are three basic levels of cognac. VS (Very Special) Cognac is aged for a minimum of 2 years, but is? more usually between 3 and 7 years. VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) is matured for between 4 to 15 years and XO is from 12 to 30 years. The Hennessy VS Cognac I found fruity, spirity and focused. The VSOP was deeper colored, smoother, with caramel and vanilla notes. The XO was richer, broader flavored, with a dried fruit character. The VS is I suppose more an aperitif or bar cognac, for drinking, or adding a mixer, like ginger ale, soda or lemonade. The VSOP and XO are better for after dinner, sipping through an evening with good friends.

Of course, as the base product is wine, there is a problem of Kashrut for the kosher consumer. There is however, now in Israel a cognac called Dupuy, which is kosher. Of course, most Israeli brandies are also kosher.

Here, there has been a long history of brandy production and consumption. If you have a surplus of grapes you have a few options. You can make grape juice instead of wine. You can sell the grapes, eat them, dry them to make raisins, or just let them fall unpicked. Or you can distill them. In 1898 Carmel started distilling the excess to make brandy. This was Israel?s first entrance to commercial distilling. Previously the only spirits produced were rustic arak, vodka, schnapps and eaux de vie made in rudimentary domestic stills. Carmel?s main brand of brandy pre-State was Extra Fine. This was a great value, fruity two star brandy, in something like an Armagnac bottle, that kept its original label virtually until its demise, in the 2000?s. Out of all Carmel?s brands, the label of Extra Fine was the oldest and longest lasting.

In 1938 a company called Stock started to produce brandy in Ramat Gan. Their Stock 84 was a best seller then, and has remained top of the charts ever since. Stock was founded in 1884 by an eighteen year old, Lionello Stock. The Jewish owned company settled in Trieste and was a great success until the rise of Hitler & Mussolini. Then the distilleries were pillaged, closed or nationalized. Because of this, Lionello Stock, had to rebuild his company again towards the end of his life and chose to make a start in other countries like America ? and Israel.

Stock combined with the partner WEST producing wine and spirits (Stock Brandy, Keglevich Vodka, Monfort wines etc). When it went bankrupt in 1988, Barkan grew out of the ashes to become Israel?s largest winery. They still produce Stock Brandy under licence. The brandy in Israel has always resembled fire water to me. It is popular with those that like an alcoholic bite, but less for those seeking a fruitiness and smoothness. However ever since its introduction to Israel, it has always been the largest selling domestic brandy.

After the founding of the State of Israel, an entrepreneur began to produce Richon 777 Brandy. The spelling reflected the French spelling of the word Rishon. 777 was chosen because of the importance of this number in Judaism, but also as a marketing gimmick to counteract Stock 84. It was soon taken on by Carmel, and became associated only with them. It was always a good drinking brandy, fruity, well balanced with a rich finish. It also was also good value.

Only just over twenty years ago Israeli brandies won the two biggest prizes for quality brandy then available. Jonathan Tishbi Brandy and Carmel Brandy 100 won the IWSC Trophy as ?Best Brandy Worldwide? at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London. Tishbi had purchased an authentic alembic still from Remy Martin and Carmel 100 was originally made to celebrate that winery?s 100th anniversary. In 1996 I worked for the Golan Heights Winery. Due to a distribution agreement, I was also export manager for Tishbi Winery. So, I was there in the magnificent Guildhall in London, dressed like a penguin in bow tie and tuxedo, when Tishbi was presented with its trophy for brandy, and the Golan Heights Winery won the trophy for its sparkling wine. It was a uniquely proud evening for Israel.

Then having reached the heights, the local brandy scene crashed. High taxes, the opening of import barriers and the rise of malt whisky destroyed the Israeli brandy market. Carmel?s very last product produced from Rishon Le Zion Cellars was a rare expression Rishon Brandy, made from components matured between 15 and 30 years. I developed the concept and designed the label. It was my last contribution as a Carmel employee. Jonathan Tishbi Brandy, Rishon Brandy, and both Carmel Brandy 100 and Brandy 120 are exceedingly rare. You may be lucky to find one languishing in a wine store or at the winery shops, but they are likely to be expensive. The days of quality Israeli brandy is but a memory.

Rishon Le Zion Cellars is now closed and lies forlorn. The memorable brandy cellar with its wooden slatted roof, that used to be full of Limousin casks, is cleared and emptied. Even the wonderful rich angel?s share aromas that came from evaporated spirit, are now over taken by aging damp rot and a dank, dirty dust. Israel?s most historic winery is now a memory. In practice, it is a rundown car park where you can leave your car for ten shekels a day!? As for the beautiful old copper stills, they were sold for scrap. Tishbi?s Alembic Still lies virtually unused, but at least tourists can see it. Today only the thin, fiery concoction of Stock 84, has survived.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. New boutique, artisan distilleries have been founded. The best is the Julius Craft Distillery. Located in Kibbutz Hanita in the Western Galilee, they produce fine eaux de vie from local ingredients. They also produce a quality brandy called Jullius VI Brandy, distilled from Colombard and Viognier grapes. It is young though, and brandy needs the magic of time. There is also a jewel in an unlikely place. The Cremisan Monastery Winery in Beit Jalla, found an errant cask which was under the radar for thirty five years. It has now been bottled. Latroun Monastery also has a good brandy.

When I first came into this trade, cognac was tasted in brandy balloons, and old fogeys would heat the brandy before sipping. They would never have organized a tasting in a night club. Today, the world is different. The straitjacket is gone. The way you choose to drink cognac is acceptable, whether you add a mixer, use it as a component in a cocktail or add ice. The glass used is open for personal preference. No-one says anymore ?this is how you should enjoy cognac.?

Personally, I prefer to drink brandy in a thistle glass. This best concentrates the fruit aromas. With wine, one swirls the wine to aerate it and then puts one?s nose in the glass. With brandy it is better bring the glass vertically to and from one?s nose, nosing carefully to find the optimum position where you are able to identify the fruit without interference from the alcohol.

Now, even the cognac houses are keen to push the cocktail envelope. Hennessy asked our own, world famous Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar in Tel Aviv, to invent some Hennessy cocktails. I tasted them and the best was the chamomile infused Hennessy VS with genevre, lemon, pineapple syrup and Ardbeg mist.

Samuel Johnson had no doubts. He was quoted as saying: ?Claret is the liquor for boys, port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.?

When you look at the bar or shelves of the wine store contemplating what to buy, and your eyes are drawn to all the whiskies, don?t forget to consider the slightly forgotten cognac or brandy, where the history is as rich and the quality no less good.

Adam Montefiore has advanced Israeli wines for over thirty years and is the wine writer for the Jerusalem Post. www.adammontefiore.com

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THE SOUND OF SILENCE

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ARAB WINES IN THE LEVANT

Wine in the Arab world sounds like a non sequitur, but it is not. Don’t forget the Phoenicians were the greatest wine traders the world has seen and they influenced the prominence of the Levant in the development of wine and wine culture. Furthermore, the Lebanese today make wonderful wine. Their most well-known winery, Chateau Musar, is more famous than any Israeli wine and the previous edition of the World Atlas of Wine made the point that a wine from Syria, Domaine Bargylus, was considered the best wine in the Eastern Med. Humbling if you believe Israeli wines are the only wines in the world! I was recently fortunate enough to read ‘Tears of Bacchus: A History of Wine in the Arab World’, by Michael Karam. Michael and I are mirror images. He is English Lebanese in a similar way that I am English Israeli. He is the world’s spokesman for Lebanese wines. When I contribute about Israeli wine to Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book, The World Wine Atlas and Jancis Robinson MW’s Oxford Companion To Wine, Michael Karam is at the same time telling these publications the story of Lebanese wine.

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THE NEW REALITY OF HOME WINE DRINKING

Sitting at home fans loneliness, frustration and even depression. After the restrictions of the last month, I think on one hand we can expect a baby boom in nine months? time, but on the other, there will also surely be a rise in violence within the family, and an increase in divorce and family break-ups. Opening a bottle of wine is encouraged, simply because it is an outlet which promotes calmness and relaxation.? There signs are that people are drinking. One of the few benefits of the prolonged time at home is that it has allowed us to take wine down to its essence. To leave the experts and pretentiousness behind, and enjoy wine for what it is.

Purchasing wine has changed, maybe forever. The on-premise consumption of wine is zero, also buying wine for festivals, parties and family get-togethers has declined drastically, with the closure and isolation. We should certainly give a thought to all the restaurants, wine waiters and sommeliers, whose frantically busy lifestyle was cut short in a second. Their situation is nothing short of a catastrophe. Yet wine sales have kept up. The reason is consumers are still visiting supermarkets to buy essential food supplies and while stockpiling toilet paper and eggs, they have continued also to buy wine. Furthermore, all those Israelis who usually travelled abroad during the spring and Passover period, stayed at home this year, adding a further 500,000 to 800,000 potential buyers to the local market.

There is also a novel concept, though not exactly new, that has received a massive boost and become an option for everybody. I am referring to online purchasing. The major supermarkets, in particular Shufersal but also Rami Levy, have increased their online sales substantially, and this trend is likely to continue long after coronavirus. Of course, the supermarkets have a far better range of wines than was previously the case. The days of supermarkets just listing cheap wines are long gone. The better Shufersals, Tiv Taam and Stop Market in particular have a great range of quality wines.

The larger wineries and big brands have continued to sell well, but I am concerned about smaller wineries without mass market distribution. Some are in for a rough time, and for others their very existence will be under threat. For this reason, wineries are having to think on their feet for new ways of marketing. They have without much afore-thought or planning, made swiftly concocted offers for direct delivery, door to door. In the future, wineries will have to be nimbler and more creative, with social media marketing ideas and streamlined, efficient distribution. The consumer is already enjoying new opportunities. The market will become more competitive and prices will come down. Under the new conditions, there is the attractive option to buy online and cut out the middleman.

One of the benefits of being at home, has been being able to enjoy wine exactly as we want, away from the prying eyes of the critical wine expert. Why is it with buying wine, that people feel such pressure, almost as though someone is critically looking over their shoulder? The same person is totally relaxed about purchasing food. But wine has to be exactly the right one in the eyes of the so-called experts. No-one wants to appear foolish. If you are buying for home use these days, you are totally released from this pressure, which anyway, is mainly self-created. You don?t have to choose a wine in a restaurant, with the critical raised eyebrow of the supercilious sommelier. You don?t have go to a wine store, where they might be recommending their own brands due to unseen interests. Nor are you hosting the wine snob boss or knowledgeable family member, who look down their nose at everything from glassware, bottle opener to the choice of wine. Much of the feeling of insecurity is in the mind of the unconfident wine buyer, but the isolation has swept these problems away in the current time. Drinking in isolation is between couples or to offset loneliness by the individual.

The wine drinker is also more relaxed about what he buys. No-one, not even the biggest experts, drinks expensive wines all the time. Not every wine is for tasting, discussing or putting on a pedestal. Some are simply for drinking. Israelis drink literally millions of bottles of Golan?s Hermon, Carmel Selected, Segal and Barkan Classic in a year, yet no-one rushes to say ?what a great Hermon or Selected I drank last Shabbat.? Yet people are drinking them. All the peer pressure about what we buy has dissipated, so if someone wants to drink an inexpensive wine, or even Lambrusco or Blue Nun, they can at home, without feeling the need to impress. Price and value are more important than ever, so the financially strapped wine drinker, can still enjoy a wine in these crippling times.

No doubt the ideal, is to have a temperature-controlled wine cellar or wine fridge at home. However, let?s get real. Most people do not have a cellar, wine room or wine fridge and buy wine to drink. If you at home, who knows or cares about your storage conditions? As long as basic rules are followed, the wines being kept on their side and avoiding light, heat and vibration, then the wine has a great chance to be ok. The current situation has reminded us of the massive customer base that drink wine, even if they are not geared up like we believe they should be.

Glassware is another real issue. The wine expert talks about wine glasses like some people talk about wines. There are glasses for every wine, many of which cost more than the wine itself. The wine expert may even judge the occasion, restaurant or visit to someone?s home from the quality of glassware. ?Ah, nice glassware? they will murmur, as though in relief. Now, it is true a wine glass does make a difference. Yet it was not long ago that restaurants used a simple Paris Goblet and wineries visitors center used very small ISO tasting glasses. We all survived and enjoyed wines nonetheless. Many households do not have a set of wine glasses. Sure, a proper wine glass is preferable, and a good wine glass really makes a difference, but in the privacy of your home, wine is being drunk from any available receptacle. Drinking at home, away from prying eyes, and people are drinking how they want, without feeling inhibited by their guests.

Matching food and wine is a great sport for both wine experts and wine professionals. So much so, that people buying the cheapest wine are often cowed into checking if the wine goes with the food they are preparing. They are more fearful of getting it wrong, than interested in getting it right! Sitting at home with your nearest and dearest, you are spared this trial. People are drinking what they like. If matching the wine to the food is not part of the baggage one has to deal with when buying wine, life is so much simpler.

Now, I have educated about wine all my life, but I have never denied the right of people to drink wine as they want. We have to admit though, that the wine trade, is geared mainly to the wine expert. The language used, the fruit basket tasting notes and pontification by experts, are all geared to appeal those in the club, yet they exclude everyone else, even though they are by far the majority. The expert will visit all the tastings possible, follow the wine scores in the Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator, and go to tastings where wines are tasted blind, usually one after the other. This is the life in the rarified world of the wine expert. The whole narrative is geared to a peacock like dance, but I am never for a minute seduced into believing this is how wine is meant to be enjoyed. However, the game is played by everyone. Wineries usually only show their higher quality wines in tastings and wine critics generally post about the better quality wines. This is a world that the wine trade encourages where the wine expert is king, but it is far removed from the general wine drinker. The current new wave of home buying has reminded us that the visible tip of the iceberg is wine knowledgeable, yet sometimes pretentious, whereas the mass of the wine buying public is largely unseen, under water. There is a whole world that the wine trade needs to cater for. These are the drinkers rather than the tasters, if you like.

This does not mean that wine is not aspirational. I love it when people are curious and want to learn more. Knowledge certainly enhances enjoyment. Sitting at home has generated a whole range of new wine experiences and inexpensive learning opportunities. Wine courses, debates and discussions by zoom, tastings on facebook, and learning via social media, has meant that the curious may learn about wine at home. There are no end of new opportunities to study wine from one?s armchair. There is nothing short of a stampede of wine educators and communicators, tired of sitting at home, desperate to be seen on facebook etc. This new state of affairs has been created by the lack of public meetings and is wonderful for the wine drinker wanting to educate themselves about wine, in a very inexpensive way.

I admit I am a little schizophrenic. I have one foot in the world of the wine trade and thrive with all the talk, the tastings and the discussions. I love reading about wine and talking about it as much as drinking it. However, I think the big failure of the wine trade is to not adapt and speak the language of the regular wine drinker, who is alienated by all the talk of forest fruits and astringency. This current spell of home drinking, crucial to the wineries, has reminded us about the hidden part of the iceberg.

Covid 19 has changed the way we purchase wine, opened new doors about how we can learn about it, and stripped wine drinking at home down to its essence. Even when we finally rid ourselves of coronavirus, we are likely still to be left with online marketing, education on social media and a more relaxed way of drinking at home.

Adam Montefiore is a wine trade veteran who has advanced Israeli wine for over thirty years. He is CEO of Adam Montefiore Wine Consultancy, a partner in Israel Wine Experience and wine writer of the Jerusalem Post. www.adammontefiore.com

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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.)

The largest wineries were Carmel Mizrahi, Eliaz and Efrat. WEST-Stock (Monfort etc) had just gone bankrupt. Including the monasteries and the ?Jerusalem wineries,? there were just twelve wineries in total. The harvest was half as much as today and in those days, Carmel Mizrahi had 75% of the market. Selected Emerald Riesling was the largest selling wine and whites outsold reds.

Golan Heights Winery came onto the Israeli wine scene like a comet and through example changed the Israeli wine forever. The idea of making wine in the vineyards, planting at high elevations, introducing advanced technology in the winery, prestige wine marketing, organizing innovative winery events for PR, were all was done for the first time under their watch.

In 1990, the winery decided to make Israel?s first super deluxe wine. The grapes were harvested and the wine was made by Jim Klein, who was the last winemaker of the winery before Victor Schoenfeld. Victor became Head Winemaker in 1992 and he made the blend, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, balanced by Merlot. As a result of two winemakers being involved, Peter Stern, the Californian wine consultant who was an important figure to the winery in those days, had the honor of signing the back label.

Segev Yerovam was CEO of the winery at that time. Today he is scarcely known by the younger generation, but those who knew him, remember him as a legendary CEO and the visionary brain behind many of the winery?s ground breaking initiatives. He insisted on calling the wine ?Katzrin?, named after the small town in the central Golan, where the winery is situated. I was working for the winery at this time and I was one of those against this name. I thought it sounded harsh and for me, Katzrin did not conjure up something stylish and of high quality. However as usual, Segev was right. His instincts were always infallible.

Yarden Katzrin 1990 was launched in 1994. The wine was immediately priced up, and for the first time a wine was made to target the aspirational private collector, rather than the more regular channels of hotels, restaurants and wine shops. Buyers were rationed and the next wine was not made for another three years, so the hype and scarcity made for excellent marketing.

Yarden Katzrin became Israel?s first ?Icon? wine. In American parlance this is a wine costing more than US$100?..and Yarden Katzrin became the first Israeli 100 dollar wine. It used to be the height of showing off for a private collector to throw open his cellar and show how many Katzrin bottles he had. This was done by buying his allowance under his own name and then sending in his ?sisters, cousins and aunts? (with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan), or anyone else that could help him increase his stash.

I have a few Katzrin memories of my own. 1994 was the year the Golan Heights Winery hosted the great Robert Mondavi at the winery. I had the honor and thrill of having dinner with him at Tapuach Hazahav Restaurant. His wife Margrit, an artist, drew an improvised drawing on a paper napkin, which I still have. A few years later I was invited to lunch at Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley with Peter Stern. We sat with Michael Mondavi, the elder son and the wine we drank was Yarden Katzrin 1990! For me to drink an Israeli wine with Mondavi at their winery, was a kind of coming of age.

Then, I remember a charity auction, one of the first in Israel, compered by television and wine personality Meni Peer at the Tel Aviv Hilton. The most expensive wine was a double magnum, three liter bottle of Yarden Katzrin 1993 which was purchased by the wine maker & educator, Barry Saslove. I don?t remember the price, but it was the most expensive Israeli wine ever sold at the time.

When I was export manager of the Golan Heights Winery, I was rationed to 10 cases of Yarden Katzrin for the whole of the world. Nothing creates interest like hunger. Instead of selling bottle by bottle, or case by case, I decided to go for broke. I visited one restaurant, Charlie Trotter?s in Chicago. At the time, this was one of the most famous restaurants in America. Charlie Trotter was an amazing, role model chef and his wine knowledge, a 26,000 bottle investment cellar and the attention given to high standards of wine service were unsurpassed. The second to none image for wine there, was created by the great Larry Stone MS, one of the world?s most famous sommeliers and a wine hero of mine. I went to the restaurant nervously carrying a bottle of the Katzrin and was graciously received by the sommelier Belinda Chang, who is also a very well-known sommelier. She received me in a formal way. There was no invitation to sit or time for small talk.? So, we stayed standing for the few minutes she had spare. She must have had so many reps visiting her. I was in the middle of my spiel, when Charlie Trotter himself, put his head round the door and said: ?we will take it all!? The story illustrates this wine?s part in creating a prestige category for Israel.

Another memory of Katzrin in the late 1990?s was the Golan Vintage Culinary & Wine Festival. At the Gala Dinner, Yarden Katzrin was served. I was with the famous French sommelier Philippe Bourguignon as he chipped away the wax from the top of the bottles so he could open them. We opened and tasted sixteen large format bottles. It certainly was extremely rare, even unique, for so many large bottles of Katzrin to be opened at one time.

After I left the winery, my interactions with the wine became rarer. I tasted the Yarden Katzrin 1990 at a recent Seder Night. It represents the year I came into the Israeli wine trade, so it had some emotional value for me. Unfortunately, the wine was passed its best. However, I was privileged to taste the Yarden Katzrin 1993 in 2018. It was a revelation, still youthful and everything in place?.after twenty five years! This reminded me again, that Israeli wine lasts longer that we have been led to believe and that Yarden wines are the best bet for long term cellaring, (along with Margalit in my opinion.)

Over the years, Yarden Katzrin has become less scarce. It is produced more often. Most times, the wine has tended to be basically a Cabernet Sauvignon, balanced with a little Merlot. The Golan Heights Winery are the kings of Cabernet. The Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon and Mount Hermon Red (a blend including Cabernet) are each market leaders at different price points. In some years (1996, 2000, 2003) a smidgeon of Cabernet Franc was added. More recently (in 2012 and 2014), a tiny amount of Petit Verdot and Malbec was added for the first time.

Now the 2016 has been released, virtually, because of Covid 19. It is only the thirteenth Yarden Katzrin to be produced. It is a groundbreaking wine. Firstly, it is thirty years since the first Katzrin was made. Secondly, it is the twenty-nine years since Victor joined the winery. Since then he has become an institution.

Finally, it is the first Katzrin made from all five Bordeaux varieties. It is a blend 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 9% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. This is the lowest percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon ever, in a Katzrin wine.? Fortunately, it adds up to 100. Once in my time, the grape variety percentages on the back label added up to more than one hundred. The marketing people were prepared to die a death, but no-one noticed and the wine was lauded nonetheless! In theory the five traditional varieties of Bordeaux make a perfect blend. The Cabernet Sauvignon provides structure, the Malbec fruit, the Merlot a soft texture, the Cabernet Franc aroma and the Petit Verdot color and tannin.

How the winemaker makes a blend, is to isolate the finest plots for each variety. The Golan Heights Winery makes more than 400 boutique single vineyard, or rather single plot wines. These are aged and then tasted again, so the winemaker and his team are able to isolate the best of the best for what is the ultimate expression from the winery. In this case the different varieties are aged separately in small French oak barrels for 18 months. After final selection, the blend is returned to oak barrels for a further 6 months. The vintage of 2016 was also a good year and relatively stable, especially after the calamitous 2015. In fact, it was the shortest harvest by the winery in 22 years.?

Today, the Yarden Katzrin 2016 costs 490 shekels. The other famous Israeli prestige wines like Castel Grand Vin, Margalit Enigma and Tzora Misty Hills all cost under 300 shekels. Does the wine justify the price and the answer is never, but I suppose if you have to ask the price, then it is not the wine for you. The 1848 Winery Grand Reserve, Alexander The Great Grand Reserve, Dalton Matatia, Margalit Special Reserve and Clos de Gat Sycra Cabernet Sauvignon are examples of wines that break the 300 shekel barrier?.and they all get snapped up. So, prestige, rarity and exclusivity are traits of a wine that need to be taken into account, not just quality.

When the Bordeaux classification was made in 1855, a ranking was made listing the best wineries on the Left Bank of Bordeaux (luckily it is called the Left Bank, rather than West Bank!). Chateau Lafite was selected as the first of the firsts. Astonishingly, this same ranking still carries weight today, yet the ranking was primarily made on price. By this criteria, Yarden Katzrin is also a statement, with added value and status. It is a target for collectors and it has maintained its mythical image that it had back in 1994.

Over all this time, the label has barely changed. It is still in a tall, handsome bottle, with a stylish narrow, black label. Look at the best wines over the years and the labels barely change. Castel, Margalit, Clos de Gat and Yarden have the same look they always did. Compare this, for instance, to Carmel and Barkan over the same period, where each new manager feels compelled to make their own label changes as if to signify they have been there!

Funnily enough, the Golan Heights Winery has launched this wine without giving journalists an opportunity to taste it. So, I will do something I have never done, which is to reproduce Victor?s tasting note: ?The 2016 Yarden Katzrin hints at its richness with the first whiff of its aroma. This special wine expresses attractive characters of ripe cherries, blackberries and plums, intermingling with pleasing notes of orange peel and chocolate, earth and herb, flowers and spice. Full bodied, this complex wine displays concentrated flavors and a very long finish.? Normally a wine critic writes about a wine they have tasted. In this instance, I can only say with all the authority I can muster: ?Well, it sounds like a good wine!? As for taste, you will have to take Victor?s word for it!

Anyway, I am a story teller more than a critic, and after thirty years since its first launch, it is worth telling the story of what became Israel?s first cult wine. The production of Yarden Katzrin 1990 remains a milestone in the evolution of Israeli wine and the Yarden Katzrin 2016 reminds us that the quality, consistency and professionalism is ongoing.

Wine trade veteran Adam Montefiore has contributed to the advance of Israeli wines for nearly 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

Photos Yarden Katzrin 2016: Haggit Goren

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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.

The Zion Winery has always been under the radar, supplying its own market sector, modestly, without bells and fireworks. Yet, it has quietly grown to become the 6th largest winery in Israel, producing 3.5-4 million bottles a year! Now, it is being relaunched with a new logo, new labels and a new attention to quality at every price point.

Theirs is a family journey lasting 170 years, which began in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, travelled via Beit Israel in Western Jerusalem and ended up in Mishor Adumim in the Judean Desert, but not so far from Jerusalem. The winery was born under the auspices of the Ottoman Empire, continued under the British Mandate and finally, flourished in the State of Israel. It is an extraordinary story, and its beginnings coincided with the visits to Israel of a member of my family, Sir Moses Montefiore. This makes their story doubly interesting for me personally.

It began when Rabbi Mordechai Avraham Galin (aka Galina), arrived from the Ukraine in 1835 and settled in Safed. The family moved to the Old City of Jerusalem when he became head of the Yeshiva ?Tiferet Yisrael.? Englishman, Moses Montefiore was the most prominent visitor to Palestine in the 19th century. He saw first-hand the poverty and overcrowding of residents there. In 1839, he suggested Jews should earn a living instead of barely surviving off charity and he became the first to recommend that they should return to agriculture.

Yitzhak Galina-Shor, Rabbi Mordechai?s son, took into account the experiences of his father and the vision of Montefiore. He understood the family needed to earn a livelihood and saw potential in producing wines. It is fortunately a fact that observant Jews have always required wine for religious ritual. His sister had married a Baruch Shor, who by chance happened to have a rare license given by the Ottoman Turks for trading in alcohol. So, they changed their name to Shor, used Baruch Shor?s license and opened a winery in 1848 in the Old City of Jerusalem. The first harvest of the new winery coincided with Montefiore?s third visit to the Holy Land. It was a domestic winery, in the heart of the Muslim quarter, adjacent to the Kotel Hakatan (Little Western Wall). They put barrels as a barrier alongside the holy wall, so no-one would inadvertently touch the forbidden Temple Mount. Ironically, the first evidence of the family?s involvement in the wine trade was contained in the census commissioned by Moses Montefiore in 1849.

Then it was a very different world. In those days there was no bottled wine, no labels, no brands and no kashrut certificate. Wine was sold in small casks. It was categorized as sweet or sour, but over 95% was sweet. The Shor family winery also produced arak, brandy and vodka.

All Shor Winery?s grapes came from Hebron vineyards owned by Arabs. Payment was made in advance to reserve the crop. Local grapes like Bittuni, Dabouki and Zeini, now being revived, were amongst the varieties used. Grapes were delivered to the winery on a drove of donkeys travelling from Hebron.

Moses Montefiore, a forerunner of Zionism, was a wine lover, who drank a bottle of wine every day. He visited the Holy Land on seven occasions. At every meeting, he was presented with wine as a token of respect by the local community. Then wines did not have brand names, but the description ?Hebron wine? comes up in his diaries many times. Montefiore himself was one of those who bought small casks of wine as souvenirs. It is true that wine is not at the forefront of any history of Montefiore, but all the evidence is there in his diaries. Who knows, maybe one of the wines from Hebron he drank or the cask he purchased, was from the Shor family winery. It was certainly quite possible to have been the case.

As the Shor Winery became established, Moses Montefiore continued his commitment to agriculture and Jerusalem. In 1855 he became the first person to buy land for Jewish agriculture, purchasing an orchard in what was then considered Jaffa, but today it equates to the Montefiore Quarter of Tel Aviv. He also bought the land which became the first neighborhood outside the Old City of Jerusalem to alleviate overcrowding. It was stony and was covered with wild vines and olive trees, so he named it ?Kerem Moshe? (Moses? Vineyard.) This area was later renamed Mishkenot Sha?ananin and Yemin Moshe, and it became the cornerstone of modern & western Jerusalem. He also built the iconic windmill in 1857, which is today known as the Montefiore Windmill. It was in accordance with his original vision: work and study. As written in Ethics of the Fathers: ?If there is no flour, there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no flour.? He instructed residents to plant vines and olive trees to get a taste of agriculture. However, planting of Jewish vineyards on a national scale did not really begin until the 1880?s, and then it was with the sponsorship and expertise provided by Baron Edmond de Rothschild.

In the meantime, the wine trade proved to be a success and the Shor family winery became the foremost wine producer in the Old City. When Yitzhak passed away, the baton was passed onto his son, Shmuel Shor, and his legendary wife, Rosa. She was a formidable woman. She opened a wine store called Khamra Rosa in the Cotton Market. It was not the first shop selling wine and spirits, but it was the first shop to operate like a wine bar and because of her character, it was by far the most famous! Her memory lives on. Arab elders still give respect today to a visiting member of the family, as soon as they hear they are related to Rosa.

In 1925 the Shor Winery had to leave the Old City on the request of the British Mandate. They moved to Beit Israel. In the new winery, the living quarters were on the top floor, the winery on the ground floor and the cellar, previously a water well, was in the basement. When Shmuel Shor passed away, Rosa took over, becoming the first ever female manager of a winery in Israel.

Glass became cheaper and wine gradually came to be sold in bottles. Bottling was done manually. Alicante became the main variety. Early labels were strictly informative with basic typed information on a white background. Then when they began to be used for marketing purposes, labels became more colorful.

In 1944, the company name was changed to Zion Winery. As the family had grown, the two brothers who were partners, decided to split the business. There was an agreement. Avraham Meir Shor?s Zion Winery continued to focus on wine and grape juice, whilst Moshe Shalom Shor?s new Shimshon Winery concentrated on spirits and liqueurs. Moshe Shalom Shor passed his Shimshon Winery onto his son in law and daughter. It was later sold and is today known as Jerusalem Wineries. His other children founded new Shor owned wineries, which in time came to be known as Arza and Hacormim wineries. However, Zion Winery was the one that had continuously made wine since 1848.

Two things surprised me about this Haredi, Ashkenazi family. Firstly, the family spoke Arabic, which was logical and practical, so they could communicate with their neighbors and suppliers. Secondly the family served in the IDF. Unfortunately, in the War of Independence, they had to recover from devastating blows.

In 1982, the Zion Winery moved to Mishor Adumim. In 1989, I became the first member of my family to make Aliyah, along with my wife and three children. In the five generations since Moses Montefiore no one else had taken the plunge. I began to work in the Israeli wine trade and was eager to learn everything I could. I was intensely curious about what was referred to as ?the Jerusalem wineries,? who no-one knew anything about. These included Zion, Arza, Hacormim and Shimshon. So I decided to visit them out of the blue in the early 1990?s. There was a certain surprise to see me, because outside visitors were rare. I saw wineries which were in a kind of time warp. It was simply how they were then. They were insular, inward looking, and devoted to providing cheap wines and liquid religion to the religious community.

What has happened since then at Zion Winery is astonishing and I have been able to monitor every stage, firstly as a competitor (with the Golan Heights and Carmel wineries), then as a wine writer and finally as a consultant. I have visited them over three decades and got to know three generations of the family, whom I spent time with in turn, in order to learn the inside story. The truth is that they have built a very serious, well-equipped state-of-the-art winery, which is spotlessly clean. The winery grew and expanded, but really took off in the 2000?s. There were three family members who created what is nothing short of a revolution. The late Moshe Shor, the CEO, was the driver. He was a bulldozer and had a fascination with machinery and equipment. He began a process of investing in the winery. When I was at the winery, he was never in the CEO?s chair, but usually in the winery checking out that things were working. When I visited not so long ago, there were incongruously a number of Chinese people in the winery. ?Who are they??, I asked. ?Oh?, I was told ?they are installing a robot for the bottling line!?

Then there was his nephew, Zvika Shor, who took over from his father as winemaker in 1992. Zvika Shor is bright, friendly, with a Herzlian beard and striking blue eyes. He has absorbed the proud heritage of the Shor family and lately has been at the center of a whirlwind of changes. It all began one harvest in 1995 when a grower rang him up and said ?I have some spare Cabernet Sauvignon. Can you use it?? By that time Carignan was the main variety used, but Zvika thought no harm in trying, so he said yes and fermented the wine in a small fiberglass tank in the corner of the winery. When he leant over and put his nose in the container, the power and depth of the aromas was so much greater than anything he had had before. He was hooked. It was an epiphany moment. For the first time they purchased better quality grapes and brought their first small oak barrels from Teperberg. After a lifetime in wine, with no ego and being unafraid to ask questions, Zvika Shor, who was virtually born in a bottle, started his education again.

The third key to success was Yossi Shor, son of Moshe. He was the dynamic, creative marketing manager, with a modern outlook. What Moshe managed to do within the winery and Zvika achieved with the wine, Yossi succeeded to do outside the gates of the winery, with drive, a new vision and innovation. Both the quality of the wines and the look of the bottles were improved. In 2007, the Terravino Competition was held in Eilat, and Zion Winery stole the show by winning four gold medals. It was the first time they were noticed in the mainstream wine trade. I was there and remember well the incongruous setting as the white shirted, black frocked haredim went up to receive their well-earned trophies, in Eilat of all places! As Zvika said to me, ?With food comes an appetite.?

Then Yossi started his own initiative. He planted new vineyards, founded the 1848 Winery, a small winery making handcrafted wines, and appointed a French born, Bordeaux trained winemaker. Leading consultants were employed covering the areas of viticulture, winemaking and marketing. Where Zion wines ended, 1848 began. Zion Winery was more geared to mass market wines providing great value, 1848 Winery was more for quality, handcrafted wines for wine stores and restaurants

When I started visiting them again, I was able to see immense changes. It made me think of the beginnings of the Galina-Shor family winery, the visits and vision of Moses Montefiore, and their efforts to build a new Jerusalem. This is after all, a wine family that has now made wine in three different centuries: the 19th, 20th and 21st. When I visited Zion Winery recently, I felt it was like a closing of a circle. Sadly, Moshe Shor z?l passed away, before his time, like his Biblical namesake, before seeing the final results of his work. However, now Zion Winery has been rebranded, with a new logo and bright, eye catching labels. The wines range from the entry level Palace, to the Imperial, Estate and Capital brands, up to the flagship Crown label.?

The Shor family, Moses Montefiore and Zion Winery were each symbols of the return to Jerusalem and its revival as a modern city. They represent both the history of wine in Israel and the modern history of Jerusalem. Zion?s wines are fresh, fruity and vibrant offering a great QPR (quality per price ratio). Only in this instance, the bottles conceal a history that goes back deep into the 19th century. History in a bottle at prices everyone can afford!

Zion Moscato. This is a white Moscato made from Muscat of Alexandria. It is low alcohol, slightly sparkling with a light sweetness. The wine is fruity, grapey with a spritzy, mouth full of flavor. Good with fresh fruit?or an anytime wine for those that like it! (NIS 20.90)

Zion, Estate Chardonnay. A beautiful modern style Chardonnay. Fresh, with good acidity and green apple and tropical aromas. It has a smooth mouth feel and a crisp finish. Great value. (NIS 40)

Zion, Imperial Cabernet Sauvignon. Light bodied, bright and fruity with mouth filling flavor and a fresh finish. A perfect drinking wine. Serve it slightly chilled. (NIS 30)

Zion, Estate Shiraz. This wine is fruit forward. It has a juicy, red cherry-berry aroma and satisfying full fruit, chewy flavor. It is refreshing and great value. (NIS 40)

Adam Montefiore has advanced Israeli wines for 35 years and he is referred to as the English voice of Israeli wine. He is the wine writer of the Jerusalem Post. www.adammontefiore.com