Rosh Hashana is upon us again. The wine trade eagerly awaits the holidays because this is when the wine sales boom. The consumer also enjoys what is a buyer’s market because the promotions and special offers are at their peak.
Many people find wine buying an ordeal, but remember you only have to purchase one or two wines, yet put that against think the number of food items you will need to buy. When you are looking for the right wine, go in with a fixed idea how much you want to spend. Wine shops are worth a special visit because of the extra service, but you can find a great range of excellent wines in some supermarkets these days too.
If you are already there to buy milk, take time to browse the wine shelves.
By all means look for the good price, but always remember the cheapest wine may not be the best value. There may be a reason a wine is discounted so heavily. It may be old wine that has not sold through. Furthermore, the fixed costs of a wine (bottle, cork, capsule and label) are reasonably similar. So, the difference between a wine of twenty shekels and forty shekels…is the wine itself.
However, do not feel bad about buying cheap. Nothing makes my blood boil more than the wine snob who is disparaging about cheap wines. Yet many are great drinking wines, especially for the price. You don’t need to taste every wine like a sommelier or have a symposium giving opinions of the experts like sharing gold amongst the minions, who one is hoping to impress. Sometimes the wine does not have to be on a pedestal. It is on the table like the salt and pepper and enjoyed as an integral part of a meal, but in the background.
Most winos will curl up at the idea of sweet wines and it is true there is a big move away from sweet kiddush wines to grape juice and dry table wines. However, Rosh Hashana is the festival where one should have a sweet wine for the ritual part of the meal, along with the apple and honey, to express our hope for a sweet year. No need to focus on a kiddush wine, but to match this special occasion choose a dessert wine, just serve it ice cold so it is palatable.
I recommend a few wines for the holiday meals, from a broad range of wineries in a wide range of wine styles.
BINYAMINA RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 Sauvignon Blanc has become the national dry white wine. It is ideal for our climate and goes well with our cuisine. This is a good workmanlike example. Nicely aromatic with tropical fruit to the fore, crisp with a refreshing acidity. Binyamina is a large winery, quieter these days, but the lesser expensive wines are usually well made. NIS 59
TABOR SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 This is the nearest we have to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Very aromatic, lashings of tropical fruit and a palate cutting acidity make it a very refreshing option to go with grilled fish or mezze. It will also go well with baked vegetables and goat’s cheese. Tabor’s wines, particularly their whites, represent great value. NIS 60
RECANATI CHARDONNAY UPPER GALILEE 2018 A modern style Chardonnay, designed to be refreshing and good with food. Half the final blend was aged on its lees in oak and half in stainless steel. The result is a fresher style, where the oak does not take over, though it is apparent and gives the wine body. Recanati Winery is one of our most successful commercial wineries, with regard to international recognition. NIS 59
YARDEN PINOT GRIS 2018 This is crisp wine has notes of unripe apple, zesty lime, a hint of floral notes, and an underlying minerality. It is refreshing with very good acidity. Pinot Gris is newish in Israel and this is one of the better ones. This is the Israel version of a grape variety very popular abroad under the name Pinot Grigio. The Golan Heights Winery is the pioneering winery of Israel and they led the wine quality revolution. NIS 75
NETOFA TEL QASSER WHITE 2017 This is a Roussanne. A reasonably new implant in Israel, most well known in the Rhone. It is a Mediterranean variety producing in this case a cracking good wine. It is dry, with touches of lime, a grassiness and herbal note on the aroma. It is expensive for what it is, but no doubt it is a good expression of Roussanne. NIS 120
VITKIN GRENACHE BLANC 2018 Vikin Winery is a pioneer of lesser known, more exotic grape varieties. Now they have done it again with this Grenache Blanc. People usually are more familiar with the red Grenache. Why I like this wine it does not have the bowlful of tropical fruit that most Israeli whites have. The aromas are delicate and subdued, the mouth feel is broad and complex. Family owned Vitkin Winery is family owned, with an inventive, creative winemaker called Assaf Paz. One of our best. NIS 130
1848 SECOND GENERATION ROSE 2018 A delightful rose. Lightly pink, delicate aroma, crisp flavor and a good refreshing acidity. It is produced by 1848 Winery, underrated but fast improving. 1848 Winery is a premium winery owned by Yossi Shor. The Shor family has been making wine for 8 generations of winemaking over 170 years. Their family winery was originally founded in…….you got it, in 1848 in the Old City of Jerusalem. NIS 60
YAFFO SAUVAGE ROSE 2018 A very drinkable rose made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The word ‘Sauvage’ means wild in French. It is salmon pink, fresh with a subdued but delicate aroma, and a well defined finish. A good wine to accompany mezze. The label is original with a number of small icons, but the writing is so small I can’t read what they represent even with my glasses. Anyway it is an attractive label and an attractive wine. NIS 78
CARMEL MOJO RED I have long been a believer in semi-sweet wines for the many that look for them. This is a new brand from Carmel based on the phrase ‘moments of joy’. The wine is a semi sweet red. If this is what you are looking for, go for it with no fear what others may think. After all, Rosh Hashanah is a festival of sweet things and though a top-class dessert wine would really fit the bill, this is a more reasonably priced alternative. Carmel is the historic winery of Israel. NIS 35
HAYOTZER VIRTUOSO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2016 Don’t be put off by the ostentatious bottle. This is a very drinkable good value Cabernet, full of flavor, medium bodied and tasty. Hayotzer Winery is also owned by the Shor family, but another branch. Today there are five wineries owned this special family. NIS 45
GALIL MOUNTAIN ELA 2016 An interesting blend from Galil Mountain Winery, which is situated at Kibbutz Yiron. This is made from Syrah, Barbera and a little Petit Verdot. It had a cherry berry aroma, plummy fruit, good acidity with a flavor led finish. NIS 60
CASTEL LA VIE ROUGE 2017 Castel has been a winery that has helped Israel reach the highest level in terms of international third party recognition. Those who wish to sample Castel, but do not pay big bucks for wine, this is your opportunity. The wine is mainly Cabernet, Merlot with a little Petit Verdot. It is medium bodied, well balanced and has a refreshing quality that demands another glass. NIS 75
KISHOR GSM 2016 Kishor is a winery part of the Kishorit village which serves adults with special needs. It is one of the few genuine estate wineries. Its wines have an elegance and are well defined. I love the GSM – Grenache Syrah Mourvedre. Fruity, spicy and refreshing. Serve this slightly chilled. NIS 95
MAIA MARE NOSTRUM 2016 MAIA specializes in Mediterranean wines, and this a blend of Carignan, Syrah and Durif (Petite Sirah.) It is a joint venture between the winemaker and two famous Greek consultants who are involved with this project. It is a full flavored wine with plenty of red berry fruit, a smoked meat character and a nicely defined finish. NIS 135
TURA MOUNTAIN HEIGHTS MERLOT 2016 This comes from one of the best Merlot regions. The wine is from Har Bracha in the Central Mountains. The wine is rich, plush, full bodied and velvety. Aromas of ripe plumb and blackberry fruit are supported by on oaky backdrop which gives body and depth. Good wine, but big. NIS 129
PSAGOT EDOM 2017 This is a Bordeaux style blend made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot from a winery situated in the Central Mountains. It is full flavored with classic aromas of cassis, black berry yet it as a well-defined elegance in the mouth and a pleasing finish. Well-made, good quality and very drinkable. NIS 90
BENHAIM SENNA TRADITION CABERNET SAUVIGNON MERLOT 2016 Benhaim is one of the very few wineries in the center of the country. They are situated in Ramat Hasharon. They specialize in big, oaky, rich reds and this one is no exception. It is full bodied full flavored and a real mouthful of wine, but it is well made and a good example of this genre. It finishes full of flavor. NIS 110
BRAVDO COUPAGE 2017 Ben Ami Bravdo who founded this winery is one of Israel’s most famous viticulturists. The winery sits amongst its own vineyards, so this is one of the very few genuine estate wineries. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The wine has a bold aroma of red and black fruit, satisfying ripe fruit flavor and blanket of sweet vamilla from oak aging. NIS 130
ALEXANDER RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2016 Alexander Winery makes wine in a very individualistic way. The fruit is very ripe, the flavors are broad and the oak flavors are quite dominant. It is a full-bodied wine, with a long, protracted finish. I have to say it is not my style, but I can’t deny it is made well. If you are looking for full flavor, body and a rich mouth feel, then I recommend it.
YATIR CREEK 2016 This is a reincarnation of the Yatir Syrah as a blend. It is still mainly Syrah, with a little Tannat and Malbec. The fruit is up front, and not lacking in any way, but the wine is also spicy with some savory notes and an attractive bitterness that prevents it being jammy. Yatir Winery is situated in the northeastern Negev, but its vineyards lie within Yatir Forest, Israel’s planted forest. NIS 150
MATAR PETIT VERDOT 2016 Petit Verdot is a Bordeaux variety that often fails to ripen there, but there are no such problems in Israel. The variety has become very well used as a blender here. This is a rare varietal Petit Verdot. To me the fruit is similar to Cabernet, just bigger, blacker and more powerful, but it is great example for those wanting to sample Petit Verdot for the first time. Matar is the kosher brand of the Pelter Winery. NIS 160
Wishing you enjoyable wine time this Rosh Hashana and a Happy and Sweet New Year. Shana Tova!
Adam Montefiore has advanced Israeli wines for over thirty years and is the wine writer for the Jerusalem Post. www.adammontefiore.com