Adam S. Montefiore


Back in 1979 I was working for the brewery Charrington, part of the Bass Charrington group. By chance I was put on a wine course at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) in London. Why Not because I expressed any interest in wine, but because they were short of numbers and I was available. This was the first step in what turned out to be a long career in wine. I remember I was given a copy of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book for participating in the course. My first wine book. Who was to know that I would later become a contributor to this same book

The rest was in the hands of inspiring teachers and an open minded student. With wine, passion spreads like a rash. It is very aspirational. The more you know, the more you want to know. The wise teacher implants the interest, the passion and then the hunger to know more. They teach you to love the subject and then prompt you to learn about it. The more you know, the more you realize how little you know. The yearning further intensifies. Then wine takes over your life. When you are not drinking, you are tasting it, talking about it or reading about it. It becomes all consuming. Luckily Bass Charrington had wine interests. I was hooked and they sent me back to the WSET for further studies.

Blessed are the teachers that can install love and passion into the willing student. In the late 1980’s when I arrived in Israel, the main wine teachers were Effie Winter, Israel Assayel and Charles Loinger. Winter was an amateur enthusiast. Israel Assayel was self-taught who became a professional pioneer as an importer and retailer. Charles Loinger was the retired director of the Israel Wine Institute who was a consultant for Carmel and lectured on wine.

Incidentally Loinger was recently awarded the Terravino Lifetime Award, which he accepted at the ripe young age of 96. As he stood up unaided and gave a fluent speech, he notified the audience, as though to explain that he was not that old, that he had a brother living in Paris who was 105 years old! Of course we all know wine is good for you. My own famous forebear, Sir Moses Montefiore drank a bottle of wine every day and lived into his 101st year, well above the average age of the time. The proof of the pudding is clearly in the eating.

In the 1990’s the most popular wine course was given by Kobi Gat at Carmel Mizrahi. He was a winemaker, agronomist and sparkling wine specialist with Carmel, who diversified to become host of the most important wine course of the time. At the same time Tal Gal Cohen was creating the best barman courses under his company Eshkolot. Both courses were held at Carmel’s Rishon le Zion Cellars, a poignant thought now that Carmel have evacuated the historic site, closing down Israel’s most historic winery forever. Others students would go to the Technion, where they would learn from Dr. Yair Margalit, winery owner, winemaker, author and educator. He is still offering wine appreciation courses there.

In the mid-nineties two wine schools were started. Firstly was the Soreq Winemaking School established by Nir Shaham. This is the unsung hero of Israeli wine education. Countless new winemakers of domestic, gargiste or boutique wineries have passed through his hands. The school continues to go from strength to strength. He is always quiet, in the background, but he has been no less effective because of that. He has had a massive influence over the last twenty years.

The Golan Heights Winery set up a wine school with Shaked Bros. in the basement of their original Derech Ha’Yayin store in Tel Aviv. The manager of the school was the young Yair Hajdu. The school was not a great success, but Hajdu was able to take the opportunity given to build his own brand. He is today regarded as one of the most respected wine experts in Israel.

Barry Saslove, was a wine lover, who later became owner of Saslove Winery. He began to offer wine appreciation courses with his boundless enthusiasm and ability to convey and share the complicated world of wine.

By the early 2000’s the main wine courses were held by Derech Ha’Yayin chain of wine stores and Haim Gan’s Ish Anavim. This was an independent organization set up in Jaffa peddling wine culture. Over the years this has included wine events, competitions, festivals, auctions, and most important for the aspiring wine student, tastings……and courses. To many, Haim Gan became a guru like figure.

In the last ten years or so, colleges started provide courses which lasted a full academic year. Tel Hai’s Cellar Master Course and Ramat Gan College’s Wine Academy Course provided a longer course with a college certificate presented to those that completed the program successfully. Then, the Ohalo College in Katzrin started offering courses for prospective winemakers, and Ariel is the latest to join the wine education bandwagon.

The main Israeli wine education heroes have been Israel Assayel, z”l, Koby Gat, Yair Margalit, Nir Shaham, Barry Saslove and Haim Gan. They have given so much to the Israeli wine scene. They have both supported and led the consumer wine revolution here. Their praiseworthy efforts over more than 25 years, has now been complemented by two exciting, new initiatives.

Firstly, the WSET, where my wine story began so long ago, has finally made its way to Israel. Founded in London in 1969, it is now active in 73 countries worldwide. People are always curious about London’s place in the wine world. Well for 300 years, London was the center of the wine trade. It remains the most cosmopolitan wine market in the world and a disproportionate number of the world’s most prominent wine writers and experts are British. Wine trends began in London and this was where the Institute of Masters of Wine, Court of Master Sommeliers and WSET were all founded.

The WSET has been brought here by certified educator Gal Zohar. Courses are offered at Level 1, 2 or 3. The course is administered by The Israel Wine & Spirit Institute headed by Gal Zohar, the wine expert, and Ronen Arditi, the restaurateur. Gal Zohar is a graduate of the WSET Diploma program. He is an international sommelier, wine judge in international competitions, a sought after wine consultant by restaurants and hotels and co-author of the New Israel Wine Guide. Ronen Arditi is an owner, educator and consultant for restaurants.

This new set up is to be welcomed to freshen and update wine education in Israel and to bring it to international standards. Certainly for those in the wine trade, it offers a recognized qualification and is arguably the most respected wine education school worldwide. It will be the number one place in Israel for wine education of wine professionals, wine waiters, sommeliers and restaurateurs.

The graduates of the WSET, who studied in the UK, may be found amongst the leading wine professionals in Israel. They include Eran Pick MW, winemaker & CEO of Tzora Vineyards; Aviram Katz, journalist & sommelier; my son David Montefiore, wine culture manager of Tabor Winery & wine department manager of IBBLS; Debbie Shoham, ex Golan Heights Winery, and the prominent sommeliers Mor Bernstein and Shira Tsiddon, sommelier of the Norman Hotel. In Israel only three individuals have the WSET Diploma: Eran Pick MW, Gal Zohar and Chaim Helfgott.

Secondly, in a further exciting development, the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University, is opening the first academic degree program in Israel for winemakers, offering an international MSc in Viticulture and Enology. Heading the program is Professor Zohar Kerem, a researcher in food chemistry, wine quality and olive oil, and very well-respected Yotam Sharon, once winemaker at Barkan Winery, and now a winemaking consultant. Other lecturers will include Prof. Ben Ami Bravdo, Prof. Oded Shoseyev and Dr. Ron Shapira.

So for people just curious about wine, wine lovers, wine professionals and aspiring winemakers, the choices and opportunities for wine education, whether informal or formal, have never been better. There is a full spectrum of educational opportunities here. Let’s start to educate and enthuse the next generation, teaching them to love & learn about the wonderful world of wine!

The Jerusalem Post Heb

Love and Learn



Passover is of course not just Seder Night and the Festival of Freedom, it is also the Festival of Wine. When and where else, are we commanded to drink four glasses a night The order of the evening is exactly set up like a Roman banquet, with the wines spaced out to last the length of the evening.

In a banquet, there is an etiquette molded by years of practice. A sparkling wine will be the aperitif. The white wine will go with the first course. The red wine will accompany the meat course and a sweet dessert wine will go with the dessert. The order is dictated by custom and common sense. For instance, you don’t eat the meat course before the soup, or the dessert before the main course. Similarly you don’t drink red before white or sweet before dry.

For Seder Night the rules may be similar. A sparkling wine or lightly sparkling Moscato can be the first glass. There are some slaves to tradition who will insist on a Kiddush wine for the first blessing. Others will drink these sacramental wines for the four cups, and then have separate wines for the meal.

I remember Seder Nights as a child with Palwin, (short for Palestine Wine, that Brits were weaned on), on the table. I quite liked it and it felt quite naughty to be drinking wine at a grown-up event. Now I am in the wine trade, I feel ashamed at the memory that I enjoyed it so much! If you do buy a Kiddush wine, I definitely recommend serving it cold because it will taste better.

I do not remember we ever drank grape juice back then, but many choose this as the safe family option today. I personally think a taste of alcohol is important to make this night different from all other nights. If you have children or guests that simply dislike wine, think of a low alcohol Moscato instead. Sweet, slightly sparkling and low alcohol, it is the perfect family wine for Shabbat and festivals. The Hermon Moscato or Buzz Moscato are options which even the great aunt who hates wine will like.

The second glass can be a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or a semi dry Gewurztraminer. This can continue to be enjoyed with the first course of the meal. For the meat course a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah or a blend can be chosen and this will also suffice for the third glass. The fourth glass I recommend a sweet dessert wine, a nice way to finish the evening. Done this way, the need for ritual wines and dinner wines are combined.

Anyway Passover is a time for tradition, and each family has its own customs. Some insist only on red wines because of tradition, others on whites because of the blood libel. It is all open and acceptable to follow your own minhag.

When I am at a small seder, the wines I choose are special and rare, and kept especially for the occasion. Obviously the people present appreciate the wine investment for the evening, so it is justified. The wine aspect is an integral part of our seders. If it is a big seder, then the wine buying is muted down accordingly, not only so there is something for everyone but also something everyone will like. Also you are not going to serve up that twenty year old wine for all your uncles and and aunts, sharing the precious liquid with 20 people, who may not even like it. The size of seder helps to dictate the price you want to pay for the wine.

If you are buying on price alone, there are very competitive prices this year. All very good for the consumer! The Hermon range, from the Golan Heights Winery, are the best in this group. The Mount Hermon Red and White are at record low prices. Other brands which almost by definition will need to be even cheaper than Hermon, are Carmel Selected, Barkan Classic and Segal Red. It is going to be a real buyers’ market this Passover. So look around. Make no mistake, at the promotion prices these wines will stoop to, they are good buys.

If you want to go one stage up, into the three for 100 shekel category, I suggest anything from the Tabor Har range (with the recognizable yellow capsule) or the Recanati Yasmin label. The Har whites, in particular Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, and Yasmin red are particular recommendations. The Dalton Kna’an label, also offers good value for money.

If your search is for better wines in the supermarkets, I recommend Gamla and the Appellation wines of Carmel. I believe the Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, (look for the new label, not the old one), is a very good wine that punches well above its weight. At the price of between 45 to 55 shekels, it is a real bargain.

If you are out to impress, then the entry level wines from the some of the best wineries in the country are always best buys and never disappoint, but this is in a category nearer 100 shekels. Tzora Judean Hills, Flam Classico and Castel’s new La Vie line of red and white are options. The Tzora Judean Hills Red is a perennial favorite of mine being perfectly balanced. To plagiarize one of my favorite tasting notes ‘it has everything, but not too much.’ Castel’s La Vie Blanc is a fragrant wine that white wine drinkers will like.

If you are looking for the best of the best, my personal choice would be C Blanc du Castel or Tzora Shoresh White as the white wine (respectively a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc) and Castel Grand Vin, Flam Noble or Tzora Misty Hills as the red wine. The best sparkling and dessert wine are an easier, more clear cut choice. They are the Yarden Blanc de Blancs and Yarden HeightsWine, both produced by the Golan Heights Winery.

Of course these are from kosher wineries. If I could add in non-kosher wineries, I would have to include the Clos de Gat Chardonnay and a red wine from Margalit Winery. They don’t have a kosher certificate, but they are made by Jews who are not idol worshippers (the reason that the whole issue of kosher wine separation began.) Once they would have been kosher enough with a small k, but that is the subject of another article.

Today the choice is yours and it is your opinion that counts not mine. There are hundreds of Israeli wines producing quality wines these days. It is no longer a question of choosing a good or bad wine, but choosing the one you like or know, or the one with the best deal. It is a great time to be buying Israeli wine. Unlike the airlines and hotels which put up prices at peak times, in the wine trade we heavily discount. So take time to look around and enjoy the opportunity, and buy within your means.

As a rough estimate, the number of 750 ml. bottles you will need for each Seder, including Elijah’s Cup, is roughly as follows : For 6 people you will need 5 bottles; for 12 people you will need 10 bottles.

My final advice is buy what you like. Don’t worry about trying to match the wine to each course. Today we say: ‘Match the wine to mood not to food.’ Or even, ‘match the wine to the person you are buying for.’ I say match the wine to the person purchasing. In other words, buy what the hell you like. Take the pressure off. It does not matter anymore, so choose what you want to drink. If you are the wine buyer, going to all that trouble for your guests, you might as well choose something you will enjoy.

The Jerusalem Post Heb

Passover Is Wine Time