Tel Aviv…Israel’s wine industry continues to score big with wine reviewers and in international competition, but its sales do not reflect its new status, several Israeli wine experts told Kosher Today. The experts say that the quality of Israeli wines “is still very much a secret, although it is slowly gaining traction.” In the first 10 months of 2010, Israel exported $18 million worth of wines, according to an extensive report released by Israel’s Foreign Ministry. But given its new prominence, say the experts, the figures should have been at least double. The latest confirmation of the quality of the Israeli wines came from noted wine critic Mark Squires who tasted 76 wines from 17 wineries, including such well-known wineries as Yarden and Golan Heights Wineries. As reported in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, 12 of the wines scored 90 and above. The top scorers were Castel Grand Van, Domaine du Castel 2008 and Sycra Muscat, Clos de Gat 2006, with 93 points each. Carmel Limited Edition, Carmel Winery 2007 and Yatir Forest, Yatir Winery 2007 were each ranked a 91. Avidan Winery’s Fringe Full Wine, 2008, and Tagkaton Blend des Noirs, 2008, each scored 90 points, as did Petit Castel, Domaine du Castel 2008 and Yarden Heights Wine, Golan Heights Winery 2008. Experts believe that the Israeli wines could better compete with other European wines, for example, if “there was a budget for marketing.” Others thought that the answer would come from better sales and distribution. There was a sense amongst the experts that the Israeli wines would “pick up steam” in the coming years but that “it will be a slow process.”
Bayonne, NJ…A growing number of kosher consumers prefer new wines for the Jewish New Year (eve of September 8th). Royal Wines introduced new wines from Australia, Italy, France, Israel, and California. Amongst the new wines from Australia is Harkham Shiraz, new to the US market. Densely colored with rich fruit flavors and spice, keep your eye out for this bottle with the slick black and silver label.
From Italy comes the Ovadia line, including Chianti, Barbera d’Alba, and Morellino di Scansano. From the Rhone region of France comes the Beaumes de Venise Muscat, a white wine that adds complexity and food friendliness to your every day Moscato. Israel has been a prime player in the quality kosher wine revolution in recent years. But most of the best Israeli wines have been Cabernet Sauvignon based wines. Domaine Netofa is a new winery founded by the traveling kosher winemaker Pierre Miodownick. The first wine released by Netofa is a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre – a fruity, food friendly winner. Rose’ is a great Succos wine, given that is has the flavors to hold up to lots of food and is intended to be served chilled – perfect for an afternoon in the succah. From the Yogev line is the new Malbec/Carignan rose’ with its deep pink color and expressive notes of red berries and lavender. Barkan has released a new blend; the Barkan Classic Merlot/Argaman. Argaman is indigenous to Israel and Israeli vintners are figuring out the best way to use the grape. This is a medium bodied blend and a welcome addition to the well-priced Barkan Classic line. Finally Shiloh, a boutique winery that has previously released the cult favorite “Secret” Cabernet, come two new 100% varietal wines. The Shiloh Barbera has expressive fruit and a mouth-watering acidity while the Shiloh Petite Sirah is a dark wine with gripping tannins and a full body. Recently released wines from California include the Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio.
Zichron Yaakov…What does a winery do with an abundance of grapes? It already is Israel’s 5th largest winery and exports over 1 million bottles. If you are Oshra Tishbi, you expand into gourmet jams, honeys and even sauces. The Merlot wine jams, a favorite with the many tourists who visit the Visitors Center, is as good as well, good wine. The Tishbi Winery is no ordinary winery. It is a piece of history, says Oshra, referring to the founding of the vineyards in 1882 by the Chamiletski family who fled persecution in Russia to their new home in Palestine. It was the famed Jewish poet Nachman Bialik who renamed the family Tishbi and it was Baron Edmond de Rothschild who commissioned the family to develop the vineyards.
More than 100 years later Jonathan Tishbi used the family’s considerable expertise in growing grapes to take the family in the direction of winemaking. The family’s vineyards in various parts of the country produce a variety of grapes that were to become the basis for Tishbi’s award winning wines. Israel’s diverse climates from the Golan Heights to the Judean Hills offered the family the opportunity to compete with some of the best grape growing regions in the world. Its Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon became instant hits not only with the local market but in markets overseas. The wines are imported to the US by Admiral Wines.
To say that Oshra enjoys what she does as the export manager and really the foreign minister of the winery is an understatement. The effervescent Oshra tells tourists “let’s have fun” as she serves a variety of great wines with some great food, all the while stressing the natural, wellness and health. With her infectious smile, she positions a number of wines for tasting: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Cabernet and, of course, Merlot, all kosher certified and mevushal. She also surprises with her 2009 Gewurztraminer and the taste is superb. It is in the restaurant in the Visitor Center that the Tishbis stress the great marriage of good food and wine, a combination that the Tishbis hope will continue to bring them great success. L’Chaim!
New York…With the two day holiday of Shavuos (Festival of Weeks) set to begin next week (eve of May 18-May 20), many Web sites are promoting recipes for the customary dairy meals. Supermarkets are also featuring many specials for fish, blintzes, cheeses, and vegetarian dishes. The Royal Wine Company (Kedem) is suggesting wines that can be paired with the Shavuos dairy fare. One suggestion that the wine company is promoting is “that when selecting a white or rosé this Shavuot, try to buy wine from recent vintages such as 2007 or younger. Also remember to serve these wines chilled, but not too cold – that can mask some of their aromas.” Amongst the wines listed for Shavuos and by extension the spring are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Red Bordeaux, Chenin Blanc, and rosé (Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and even Cabernet Sauvignon). Kedem offers these wines from California, France, New Zealand and Israel.
Bayonne, NJ…by Staff Reporters…Jay Buchsbaum spent his Pesach with the Chevra (an upscale Passover program) at the Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa in Litchfield Park, Arizona, educating Jews about fine kosher wines. He was taken aback when one of the participants wagged his finger in an apparent gesture of J’accuse: “You cost me $10,000!” When Jay recovered, he realized that the man had learned to appreciate an assortment of some of the most expensive wines which he skillfully mixed in with the haute Pesach cuisine at the resort and that the whole incident was rather a striking compliment to someone who has emerged as an iconic kosher wine educator. Jay predicts that this new appreciation for a maturing kosher wine industry whose products compare favorably with non-kosher wines will not only gain it acceptance amongst kosher consumers but will extend to the general population as well. When he first began his impressive career at Royal Wine Corp. (Kedem), a wine tasting meant responding to such basic questions as to what makes a wine kosher. Today he is preaching to a younger generation that is not only knowledgeable but is increasingly associating fine kosher wines with upscale dining or as Jay puts it “alongside the Sushi bar.”
When Jay turns back the clock to his early years at Kedem, he reminisces about trying to convert Jews who were used to the sweet sacramental wines. The two best known wines in those days, he points out, were Concord and Malaga. Today, Bartenura Mascato is a basic staple in most kosher households, so much so that the kosher version is the best-selling Mascato wine imported from Italy and that includes many non-traditional kosher consumers. Compared to the newer exotic kosher wines that are available today, even Mascato seems to be dated. To prove his point of just how far kosher wine has come in these last two decades, Mr. Buchsbaum mentions the Baron Herzog line which has received high praise from formidable wine critics as being of equal or better quality to comparable nonkosher wines. The addition of the attractive and luxurious Herzog Winery in Oxnard CA was yet another turning point in what Jay routinely refers to as “the evolution of kosher wine.” Israel’s emergence as a relatively new center of some of the best wines in the world is another major development in that evolution. In fact, wine producing countries now consider Israel a formidable competitor. “Kosher wines have been a centerpiece of lifestyle changes amongst young Orthodox Jews,” Jay emphasizes. “It is no longer a case of just having a good bottle of wine at the Shabbat dinner ore at an upscale kosher restaurant; it’s having good wine every night for dinner.” Despite these obvious changes, Jews are still well behind the general population in per capita wine consumption. And he is very careful to point out that having a great kosher wine experience is not synonymous with consuming an excessive amount of alcohol. Even when Jay’s wine demonstration at the Chevra included pairing great dishes with fine wines including champagne, lighter wine, richer red, and sweet dessert wine, “it still need not add up to excessive consumption of alcohol.” Jay recently lectured a group of restaurateurs on how to effectively promote their wine program, beginning with a cocktail while waiting for a table. For Jay no matter how sophisticated his market becomes, when it comes to kosher wines, he will always be the consummate educator.
New York…by Eda Kram…Wine connoisseurs as well as ordinary Jews participating in a Seder this Passover already have an unprecedented number of wines to choose from. But Passover 2010 will have some interesting additions. Kedem, which traditionally adds many new wines each Passover, is this year adding Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio, Kedem Estates reduced Carb Wines, Baron Herzog Jeunesse White (Chardonnay) Alfasi Mistico, Binyamina Reserve Shiraz and Segal’s Argaman. Allied Importers U.S.A has several new wines available for Passover: It includes Dalton Matatia 2006, which is a several years in the making. The wine was named after Mat Haruni, the founder of Dalton Winery. Other new Dalton wines include Moscato 2009 and Unoaked Chardonnay 2009. Beckett’s Flat ‘Five Stone’ Methode Champenoise is yet another new wine. Many Israeli wineries have also introduced new wines. Some of these wines will be on display at a wine tasting sponsored by the Jewish Week on March 14th at City Winery in Tribecca in New York City. The City Winery produces more than 250 barrels of wine a year, over 35 of them kosher. The weekly is also featuring a first-ever Kosher Wine Guide, which will appear as a glossy-covered supplement in its March 5th issue. The magazine-style Kosher Wine Guide will feature articles about an up-and-coming Israeli winemaker, a three-hour scramble to taste 170 wines, how to match the right wine to the meal and more. The Guide will publish the names of the new winners of The Jewish Week’s Top 18 Kosher Wine Competition.
New York…by Zechariah Mehler…Quality wines are so much a part of the culture and history of France that it is automatically given the edge when it comes to winemaking. Yet, of late Israeli wineries have fared extremely well in international competitions even against the best French wines, and yes Israel with its rich tradition in general has a long history in winemaking. A good example is the Psagot Winery, which is located in the Judean Hills just north of Jerusalem overlooking the Edom Mountains to the east. This area was once the home of hundreds of ancient wineries whose remnant can still be seen today. Psagot’s wine cellar is an ancient cave used for winemaking that dates back to the time of the second temple. In this wine cellar Psagot ages enough wine to produce about 80,000 bottles a year. Their signature wine is called Edom and it is made from a collection of the various grapes at the wineries. Smooth and rewarding Edom is rich with the flavor of berries, vanilla and oriental spices. “The flavor comes from the mountains surrounding Jerusalem”, says Yaakov Berg, one of Psagot’s owners. “The soil is very rocky and in order to plant we need to drill into the rocks. Because of this the grapes receive a lot of minerals from the soil that add to the overall taste of the wine”. With eight different wines, Psagot Winery is primed to become one of the premier labels in Kosher wine.