In the late 1980s, I came to an Israel which was a bit backward in terms of its alcohol beverages. In wine, Carmel Mizrahi was a monopoly with 75% of the market. Then ‘Selected was their entry level brand and ‘Rothschild’ was their prestige label. Regarding beer, Tempo Brewery was an even bigger monopoly. Goldstar, Maccabee and Nesher were the main brands. As for spirits and liqueurs, the big brands were Elite Arak and Stock 84 Brandy. Most of the spirits were made by the big wineries: Carmel, Barkan, Eliaz, and Askalon-Segal. In fact all the wineries made spirits, with one notable exception. That was the reasonably new Golan Heights Winery, which from the get-go decided to concentrate on quality table wines. You may remember Vodka Stopka, Keglevich, Vodka Gold, Captain Rum, Lord Gin and Tehila (imitation Tequila.) There were also some vermouths (Carmel & Stock), whose chief benefit were that they were kosher, and Amadeus liqueurs. The most successful spirits in terms of quality were the brandies produced by Carmel and Tishbi, which won some major awards, and the most well-known liqueur internationally, was the chocolate orange Sabra, produced by Carmel on behalf of Seagram.
The wine used for Kiddush every Friday night is personal and dictated by family tradition. Over the years many have reverted to using dry wines. Sweet Kiddush wines are in decline, though the use of grape juice remains popular. However, due to family tradition, many still insist on a sweet red sacramental wine. I usually use the dry wine we are going to drink with the meal for Kiddush. Rosh Hashanah is the only time when I actually recommend a sweet wine for the blessing. If during the New Year Seder, we are encouraged to eat sweet foods cumulating in the apple and honey, I believe we should insist on a sweet wine in honor of the wish for a sweet year. As it is the Jewish New Year, it should be a good one. Probably Yarden HeightsWine is the one of the best, but there is great variety of dessert wines. Failing that, you can always fall back on Moscatos, like the good value entry level Buzz or higher quality and more authentic Bartenura from Italy.