Adam S. Montefiore



2023 may be the coolest temperatures in the next ten years

It is getting hotter. You don’t need me to tell you that. Remember Israel may be the most southern quality winemaking country in the northern hemisphere. That may be cause for concern in the future. When I asked one of our leading winemakers about this a few years ago he answered me with ‘head in the sand’ complacency:  “Well, we have made wine for 5,000 years, why would we not continue?” I am not sure panicking helps, but the irregular weather extremes in wine regions around the world, often with tragic consequences, has belatedly woken up the wine industry. Wild uncontrollable fires, fast moving floods, drought and out of season frost and hail, have bedeviled wine regions as far apart as Australia, California, Italy, Greece and Germany. Some of the events caused distressing tragedies, but last year’s calamity is already replaced by the current years’ disasters and unseasonal weather patterns. These days there is no discussion about wine or wineries, which does not begin with comparing notes about the weather! All the talk has even had an effect here. Today, there is barely a winery that does not talk sustainability, at least on the label and in the marketing blurb. It is an absolute turnaround. Vineyards which used to be as clean as a whistle, with brown stripes of earth between the vines, standing like upright soldiers, now have a cover crop, which makes it all look more natural, even if less manicured.

This article first appeared in the Jerusalem Post

What that means for the grape varieties we plant and the winemaking, we will leave for another time. However it is pertinent to ask, in these baking humid summer months and hot autumn, how does the rising mercury affect our own drinking habits? Above all, is the question of temperature…of the wine. It is most important the wine, at least white wine and rose, is cold, very cold. If necessary put it into the freezer..but don’t forget it. You may end up with mush, and the cork pushed out. You really need to put a white, rose or sparkling wine in a domestic fridge for four hours. The quickest way to get a wine cold is to put it in a bucket (talking domestic bucket here), add ice and enough water to submerge the bottle, and then add a sprinkle of salt. In a restaurant situation, the more formal ice bucket is used, but the same principle applies. Restaurants frequently add ice, submerge part of the bottle, but it is not enough. Ask for them to pour water up to the neck of the bottle…again with a touch of salt. The water envelopes the bottle; The ice makes the water cold…and the salt makes the ice melt, which makes the water colder more quickly. Most restaurants will ram the bottle into the ice, but the water is crucial and often forgotten. In these days of emergency temperatures, emergency solutions are required. If you want to add a couple of ice cubes to your glass do it. After all I presume you are not drinking Chateau Lafite. The wine intelligentsia in Tel Aviv may not like it, and the sommelier may balk at the very idea, but the customer is always right. Don’t be put off if some young wine waiter who has just learnt wine, looks at you as though you have come down from the trees. It may be worth asking for ice just to see their face. Anyway, by my reckoning it is ok. I give you permission, not that you need it from me! The common refrain is that people usually serve white wines too cold and red wines too warm and there is something to that. However whites and roses I am serving colder in the hot spell. Ice cold in fact!

HOT WEATHER WINESRed wines are a bigger problem in the scheme of things. I recently went for a tasting of one of our largest wineries and unbelievably the red wines were served warm. Good quality wines were simply not given the opportunity to show themselves. It showed a surprising lack of professionalism. Temperatures outside were 35°C. Now, I recommend with all red wines in Israel, even your best prestige cuvee, to put the bottle in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. This will not make the wine cold, but will mildly chill it. This is so important in a hot climate. Without it, the wines simply lose their shape. The wines anyway will warm up quickly in the glass. If the red wines are young and fruity, then serve them well chilled in these days of exaggerated temperatures. These are wines to quaff. No need to worry about effete tasting etiquette. Sometimes wine is to drink and enjoy, not just pontificate about.

HOT WEATHER WINESOne benefit of thirst-quenching wines, is the price. If you are looking for wines to quaff, glug and drink with gusto; you are not so interested in nuances of complexity and layers of flavors. Refreshment is what you want. Therefore, one of the benefits of the search for wines to cope with the weather, is that you can buy cheaper. Quality is not the order of the day.

HOT WEATHER WINESThe best wines when your thirst beckons have to be sparkling wines. This category means different things, to different people. Whether it is traditional method wines, Prosecco, Cava or Lambrusco, go for it. Whatever your poison, it is ok. These days it can mean enjoying a Pet-Nat or a fine Champagne. For me, I am a great fan of quality sparkling wines and Gamla Brut is always a best buy. Sparkling wines are in these days, as is anything with bubbles. Especially if the wine has good acidity and a mild CO₂ bite. There is nothing so refreshing as fizz.
As far as choice of wines, in a heatwave are concerned, I am more likely to drink white than red. Whites are coming back in any case. People realize there is more variety in white wines, they match better with our Israeli – Levantine fusion cuisine and apart from anything else, they go better with our climate. The only difference when it is unbearably hot, is that I am not looking for body, flavor, complexity or oak. I want something medium to light bodied, with good fruit and piercing acidity. So in the blazing humidity, I am not looking for big oaky Chardonnays. These days, many chardonnays are made in a modern style, with more fresh appley rather than rich buttery aromas. In any case, I prefer a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or a Riesling, even if it is off dry. Furthermore, I am not looking for the best quality wine, but the most refreshing. These do not necessarily have to be the same thing.

HOT WEATHER WINESMy main summer recommendations are Mony Colombard, a simple variety, but shows well in Israel; Barkan Classic Sauvignon Blanc which has good typicity and is a great price; Mount Tabor Chardonnay, an unoaked modern style Chard; and Jerusalem Vineyard Winery SLB, which I have written about a few times, but it is so good for its price. The Barkan Beta Riesling is a refreshing wine even though it is in an off dry style.
Rose is booming all over the world, including in its spiritual homeland, France. In Israel, even the wine intelligentsia, who would not have been seen dead drinking something as mundane as rose ten years ago, are now happy to be seen in the pink. Though the rose world is large, and the variety far greater than we realized, part of the attractiveness of rose is that it is an unpretentious mood wine. It is not a wine that you need to discuss the points or quality. Between you and me, it does not really matter what the grape variety is. It is a wine to drink and enjoy….it is as simple as that. You don’t have to understand about it, talk about it or explain its merits. Its informality and casual nature in my view perfectly represents the Israeli and Levant relaxed attitude. Rose wines tend not to be too aromatic, and they also usually have great acidity. This makes them great wines to drink in the furnace, but serve them very cold. I particularly like the new Galil Rose from Galil Mountain Winery. It has a beautiful label and is made from Syrah, Sangiovese and Grenache ; the Psagot PR Rose and Darom by Yatir Rose are both good and the Jerusalem Vineyard Winery Rose, is deliciously simple and unpretentious. The Golan Rose also has everything I like in a rose. The beautiful color, merest hint of berry fruit, and that great acidity that provides a cracking contrast.
Then we get to reds. In hot weather I drink less red ….and different reds. I tend to like lighter, more linear reds, with good fruit and refreshing acidity. Grape varieties like Grenache, Tempranillo and Cinsault make good, what we call, ‘summer’ or ‘lunchtime’ wines. However, these wines may be found from most varieties. Some Shiraz or Mediterranean blends fit the bill. Though Cabernets and Merlots can be too much with up front fruit and too big for comfortable quaffing, many wineries make unoaked, entry level expressions from these varieties which will just fine. Again you are looking for wines of lighter body, lower alcohol, with no apparent oak aging or only the influence of large or used barrels. These you will find amongst the lesser expensive labels from the wineries. Some of the wines the snob within will not allow you to drink in normal times, will be the ideal wines to drink in hot weather. So many times an imperious so called wine expert has pontificated to me “I don’t drink wines under 50 shekels.” Well, in the sweltering heat, that may be the time to start, because many of the summer reds will be in that price category.
Reds which spark my interest are the Selected Cabernet of Carmel and Zion Winery Estate Merlot. Serve them both well chilled. 1848 Winery’s 2nd Generation Syrah is juicy fruity and flavorful. Barkan Beta Argaman has cherry berry fruit. Argaman is the Israeli grape variety. Tura Limited Edition, a blend of Marselan and the Italian Dolcetto, is a light but edgy summer red. Segal Free Run Merlot is flavorful and Recanati Young Vines Carignan is made from the new vineyard planted in the Judean Foothills, next to old vine vineyard where they produce their classic wild Carignan. Red berry fruit with good, raw acidity makes it super refreshing. Finally Carmel Mediterranean 4 VATS is a juicy, chewy Mediterranean blend which is fresh, vibrant and good value.

Of course, where is it written thou shalt only drink wine poured out of a bottle? In these times, tradition goes out of the window. More sensible to put a couple of wine cans (like the brand ‘Mine’) in the cool box and head to the beach.

Temperature, price and wine style are issues which should concern you when you drink wine to assuage your thirst. 2023 may be the year of the lowest temperatures in the next ten years. So be prepared and choose you wines wisely.

Adam Montefiore is a wine trade veteran and winery insider turned wine writer, who has advanced Israeli wines for 35 years. He is referred to as the English voice of Israeli wine. He is the Wine Writer for the Jerusalem Post.



A sweet year for wine


Raising a glass on Rosh Hashanah
Hotter weather colder wines


As temperatures rise, we are drinking differently
You never had it so good


The wine lover in Israel is spoilt for choice.
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