Barkan Winery – a Pheonix Rising quickly in Hulda

The Barkan Winery is one of the largest wineries in Israel; actually it is the second largest in Israel. It is located in Kibbutz Hulda, where the vineyards that provide the grapes for the Classic range of wines surround it.

Barkan is one of those wineries that have been part of the latest Israeli Winery revolution, that being the modernization and quality improvement of the massive commercial wineries. The winery officially started in 1889 and did not start to get serious about quality wine until 1990, when Yair Lerner and Shmuel Boxer bought the winery that was clearly struggling and whose previous owners were playing hot potato with the winery assets and life. From 1889 till 1990, the winery had changed hands four times and was once again on the rocks and in need of experienced management and wine expertise.

In 1988 the winery started construction of a new facility in the Barkan Industrial zone, near the city of Ariel, to replace the aging plants in Petach Tikva and Netanya. The first order of business for Boxer and Lerner was the modernization of the winery’s processes, winemaking abilities, and vineyards, which they saw as the key to the production of fine wine and expansion of the company.

By 1999, it was clear that the Barkan facility was too small for the quantities of premium grapes that would be soon come on line from the newly planted vineyards. The most obvious location for the new winery was Kibbutz Hulda, where Barkan’s largest vineyard was located. Hulda is also centrally located, close to all the major arteries and enough removed from urban areas as well. The winery’s location allows the grapes to be quickly transported to the winery, to insure freshness and to maximize quality. In addition, the strategic location was optimal for distribution of the bottled wine to market. The new winery received its first harvest in 2000. The bottling line was moved to Hulda in 2003 and the offices were moved there in 2004. A large warehouse was completed in 2007, and with that last addition all of the Barkan Winery operations were officially moved to Kibbutz Hulda.

Till this day, Barkan continues to buy or plant vineyards, including the largest vineyard in Israel, the 300 acre vineyard that surrounds the Hulda winery.

Like many of the large and commercial wineries in Israel, Barkan understands that their success starts and ends with their customers. To that end, they have created a lovely visitor’s center in the winery, along with a large professional library, a museum, and a tasting room. It is located in the center of the barrel aging cellars, separated only by glass from Barkan’s finest wines and brandies slowly maturing in oak. Just recently, Barkan has added yet another component to their visitor’s center, a state of the art IMAX style theater, capable of seating 50 guests in a circular pattern, who are presented with a 10 minute story of the history of winemaking in Israel and at Barkan.

The winery beyond being modern and filled with all of the latest high-tech toys that a winemaker can dream of has really come into its own by combining traditional methods and world-class winemakers. The Barkan winemakers, led by head winemaker Ed Zaltsberg, have clearly taken the vision of Boxer and Lerner to heart as they continue to create solid to fantastic wines throughout the winery’s portfolio. The Tempo Beverage Group must have seen the same potential in the Barkan Winery as Lerner and Boxer did, as in 2005, they became majority partners in the winery. The massive capital infusion has allowed Barkan to continue improving its vineyards, its winery, and adding quality winemakers to their staff. All of which assures that Barkan Winery will continue to succeed in the marketplace by producing top-notch wines, in a wide and expansive wine portfolio.

A great example of the expanding portfolio is the Assemblage product line! The Assemblage line started in 2008 and is a set of wine blends that are truly unique in many ways. These wines are controlled and are not overripe, though these are clearly Mediterranean style wines. Further, the blends are unique, though two of them mimic Australian blends; the Tzafit is a unique blend of Marselan, Caladoc, Carignan, and Pinotage!

Personally, I found the Tzafit to be the most impressive of the three with unique flavors, aromas, and smoke notes. The Assemblage wines are named such as an ode to the French winemaking process: Assemblage is the blending of several wines, generally issued from different grape-varieties, independently vinified. Also, Assemblage is a nod to an art process that is a composition of found objects into two or three-dimensional artwork. Both are hints to the true desire of the Barkan winemakers. They are taking found objects, in this case wine and vinifying them separately, in their own barrels, and then blending them into these unique works of art. They are not meant to be the top-line wines, that honor is still owned by the Superieur labels. However, they have added a line above the Classic, Reserve, and right in line with the other unique labels; the altitude series of Cabernet Sauvignon.

I had the chance to taste through the altitude series in both the 2007 and 2008 vintages, and I found the 2007 wines to be on par. So for all of you folks who do not drink shmitta wines, do not fret, the 2007 vintage is as good, if not a tad better, in my opinion. The 2007 vintage is not as black and aggressive as the 2008 vintage, but the 412+ label of the 2007 vintage, may well be the better of the two lines. The altitude series is simply an ingenious marketing ploy by Barkan that preys on our ever-growing desire to taste wines in a unique horizontal style and/or wines that evoke cooler climates. Also, please note the change in the altitude wine labels, they are now more subdued and attempting to style themselves after the color of the soil on which their vines are planted.

If you are worried about Shmitta, the entire Assemblage line will be off-limits – why? Because two of the three wines are from the shmitta year of 2008 and the 2009 vintage makes use of 5% juices from the 2008 vintage! Are you kidding me! Obviously, Barkan is more than capable of selling all the bottles they make of the 2009 Barkan Assemblage Tzafit, because Royal Wines, who imports Barkan wines, will not touch it with a 10 foot pole, as Shmitta wines do not sell well in America, if at all, again, check out my posting on Kosher 101 and Shmitta wines in particular.

The Superieur wines, while quite unique and lovely are wines that are really not quite ready to enjoy from release and need a bit more time till they are ready. The Altitude wines need a year or so from release and then are ready to go. The reserve, classic, and Assemblage wines are ones that are built ready to go from release. While, I have been impressed with the work of the winemakers at Barkan in the past few years, the classic wines have taken an opposite direction from the rest of the labels. A few years ago, I really liked the classic Pinot and Pinotage, but these past couple of years, the Classic wines have taken a serious wrong turn! I do not know what is wrong, but the flavors taste far too cooked or prune like in nature and that is not a compliment. I really hope they fix the classic wines. The past few Classic vintages I have tasted are not capable of being scored.

The wines notes follow below:

2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine is dark and brooding with lovely Cabernet styling that starts off with lovely ripe blackberry, cassis, raspberry, licorice, herb, graphite, and green notes. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is plush and round with mouth coating tannin, concentrated but uniform with black and red fruit, black plum, sweet cedar, and tannins that are integrated and ready to enjoy. The bell pepper and cloves on the mouth almost make you take notice. The finish is long and spicy, nice tobacco, chocolate, and cinnamon, from 20 months in oak, along with dirt, and vanilla. This is a really nice wine but it is just a step shy of a really complex wine with notes that grab your attention. Still a lovely wine whose time has come, drink within the year.

2007 Barkan Carignan, Reserve – Score: B+ to A-
The purple to black colored wine has lovely aromas that assault you at first, with smoky notes, tobacco, blackberry, ripe plum, loamy dirt, and bramble. The mouth expresses itself in an inky like and medium bodied structure, showing blackcurrant, cedar notes, date, and lovely soft tannins that come together quite nicely. The finish is long and spicy, with dark chocolate, mineral, and vanilla lingering along with green notes and tobacco leaf.

2006 Barkan Superieur Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This is the flagship wine for Barkan, the wine is composed of a selection from the best individual barrels that were sourced from three vineyards in the Upper Galil and the Golan Heights. They then underwent an additional period of aging in new oak barrels to further enhance the wine’s structure. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine hits hard with crushed herb aromas, followed by date, tons of cedar, blackberry, black plum, and chocolate. The mouth is full bodied, layered and rich with soft and accessible mouth coating tannin that are still integrating and nice ripe fruit. The finish is long and balanced with nice mineral notes along with leather, and vanilla.

2007 Barkan Superieur Pinotage – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is rich and filled with cedar, tobacco, raspberry, plum, currant, nice smoked meat, herbaceous notes, tobacco, and rich spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is super rich and concentrated with massive mouth coating tannin, rich cedar, nice red fruit, and heady tobacco that is coming together quite nicely. The wine is well-balanced and the finish is long, massive, and super spicy, with a fat stogie, black pepper, cedar box, ripe red fruit, and a spice box that ties the entire package up perfectly. This is by far the best Pinotage I have ever tasted, but to fair, that has not been very many.

2006 Barkan Superieur Shiraz – Score: A-
The nose on this deep purple colored wine is super rich and extracted with rich black pepper, tar, earth, bramble, ripe black plum, blackberry, raspberry, coffee, mint, and rich cedar. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and massive with an inky structure, full on spice attack, along with a concentration and focus that comes from the rich tannin, cedar, and black fruit, and inky structure all coming together nicely. The finish is long and spicy with cedar, chocolate, tar, black pepper, and plum all lingering nicely on the palate.

2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude Series 412+, Reserve – Score: A-
I found the entire 2007 vintage of the altitude series was nice, with the 624+ label being the best one. The series is numbered based on the elevation of the vineyard in meters, in anticipation that the wines will show differently because of that.
The nose is clean with good notes of raspberry, currant, black plum, and mineral. The mouth is big but with restrained oak influence, nice black fruit, integrated mouth coating tannin, that helps to bring the wine together. The finish is long and spicy with chocolate and date.

2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude Series 624+, Reserve – Score: A- to A
I found the entire 2007 vintage of the altitude series was nice, with the 624+ label being the best one. The series is numbered based on the elevation of the vineyard in meters, in anticipation that the wines will show differently because of that.
The nose hits you over the head with extremely ripe and expressive classic Cabernet fruit. Starting with blackberry, black plum, cassis, heavy notes of date, light graphite, and cedar. The mouth is massive and mouth coating with clear influence from the wood and dark fruit coming together in a lovely manner. The fruit is concentrated and focused while also being mouth filling and ripe. The finish is long with hints of tobacco and vanilla. This is a rich and expressive wine in both the nose and mouth and one worth finding.

2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude Series 720+, Reserve – Score: A-
I found the entire 2007 vintage of the altitude series was nice, with the 624+ label being the best one. The series is numbered based on the elevation of the vineyard in meters, in anticipation that the wines will show differently because of that.
This wine was clearly different from its two siblings. It showed candied fruit, red raspberry, and other unique characteristics. The nose is subdued with raspberry, blackberry, and plum. The mouth is expressive with layers of candied cherry, raspberry, and cassis that are wrapped up nicely with nice integrating tannin and sweet cedar. The finish is long and spicy with chocolate and vanilla lingering nicely.

2008 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude Series 412+, Reserve – Score: A-
I found the entire 2008 vintage of the altitude series was nice, with the 624+ label being the best one. The series is numbered based on the elevation of the vineyard in meters, in anticipation that the wines will show differently because of that.
The nose is crazy rich with sweet cedar, blackberry, cassis, date, plum, and toasty notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and layered that is hits you with concentrated fruit, not yet integrated tannin, raspberry, lovely mouth coating tannin, and rich sweet cedar that ties the entire package together, but one that will improve in a year or so. The finish is long with nice leather, vanilla, chocolate, and hints of citrus at the end. Besides the fact that the altitude differs along the line of labels, they also differ in the type of soil the vineyard grows in. This vineyard is planted in volcanic soil in the Golan Heights. This is a classically styled hot weather Cabernet and one that can be enjoyed from 2012 till 2016.

2008 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude Series 624+, Reserve – Score: A-
I found the entire 2008 vintage of the altitude series was nice, with the 624+ label being the best one. The series is numbered based on the elevation of the vineyard in meters, in anticipation that the wines will show differently because of that.
The nose is crazy rich with lovely ripe fruit, blackberry, cassis, and black cherry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is richly acidic and balanced nicely with crazy mouth coating tannin, layers of red and black fruit, raspberry, and lovely cedar. The finish is long and rich in the mouth with nice sweet chocolate, crazy amounts of vanilla, and good leafy tobacco. Besides the fact that the altitude differs along the line of labels, they also differ in the type of soil the vineyard grows in. This vineyard is planted in clay over limestone in the Upper Galilee. This is a classically styled hot weather Cabernet and one that can be enjoyed from 2012 till 2016.

2008 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude Series 720+, Reserve – Score: A-
I found the entire 2008 vintage of the altitude series was nice, with the 624+ label being the best one. The series is numbered based on the elevation of the vineyard in meters, in anticipation that the wines will show differently because of that.
The nose on this wine screams with eucalyptus, herb, and mint, along with heady spice, blackberry, cassis, and black cherry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is one of the more balanced wine is terms of the fruit potpourri that hits you right off the bat, with fruit from the nose, along with blackcurrant, raspberry, and dark plum, all wrapped up in a lovely oak, along with a crazy tannic and still firm mouth-feel, that bodes well for a bit more life in this bottle than its two brothers. The finish is long and spicy with nice tobacco, vanilla, rich black and red fruit and a large dollop of chocolate ice cream in the finish. Besides the fact that the altitude differs along the line of labels, they also differ in the type of soil the vineyard grows in. This vineyard is planted very close to the Syrian border in clay over limestone way up in the Upper Galilee. This is a classically styled hot weather Cabernet and one that can be enjoyed from 2012 till 2017.

2008 Barkan Assemblage Eitan (45% Syrah, 40% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon) – Score: A–
The very unique nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich with cedar, chocolate, ripe blackberry, cassis, super ripe plum, spice, and tobacco. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with ripe plum, raspberry, black pepper, massive tannins that coat the mouth, and rich cedar. The finish is super long and spicy with nice tannin, cassis, vanilla, along with a hint of roasted meat, tar, and spice. Clearly different parts of the blend are showing at this time, but as this wine settles, the roasted meat and black fruits will start to take a larger front stage. This is a wine that will last well till 2017.

2009 Barkan Assemblage Tzafit (Blend of Marselan, Caladoc, Carignan, and Pinotage) – Score: A- to A
The nose on this dark purple to dense black colored wine is screaming with nice banana, black pepper, ripe plum, blackberry, ripe dates, tar, slight roasted meat notes, vanilla, and chocolate. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine shows massive tannins that are still coarse, with a unique mouth that is a by-product of the unique components, banana and red/black fruit dominate the mouth with full mouth coating tannins, concentrated fruit, blackcurrant, and roasted meats. The finish is long and super spicy with lovely cedar, vanilla, tannin, chocolate, tar, black pepper, and dates. The dates, vanilla, cedar, tar, and roasted meat notes linger long on the palate. This is a wine that needs time and will show more classic black fruit, still, a wine that has nowhere but up to go.

2008 Barkan Assemblage Reichan (70% Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot) – Score: A–
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is super rich with ripe blackberry, cassis, rich chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, plum, and tar. The mouth on this rich and full bodied wine is mouth coating with massive tannin, the structure is quite different from the other Assemblage wines, more rigid and extracted, while being layered with black fruit, rich plum, inky mouth feel, and dates. The finish is super long and spicy, with cedar, still massive tannin, dates, vanilla, tar, and blackberry. A very different wines from the other two Assemblages, far more massive and inky with a structure that is in your face. Quite lovely.

Posted on August 9, 2012, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Industry, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I think that you as well as a number of wine enthusiasts on the Rogov blog page spend too much time reviewing well known established wineries. Many of those who read your blogs would enjoy a bit more info on the other 240 wineries and not the big 10. I can understand writing about a new series or special blend but giving reviews of wines that have been on the market for a year or two and from such a large mega winery; I don’t get it.

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