Teperberg Wines at the 2012 Gotham Tasting and Sommelier

This is the tenth article I am writing on wineries from the Judean Hills wine region of Israel. No matter where you look around the landscape of Israeli wines and wineries you will find story after story of rebirth, renewal, and a fair amount of plain old new! Carmel, Binyamina, Barkan, were all producing mass consumption/bulk wine up until 1o to 15 years ago. Since then, they have seen serious rebirth, still selling almost undrinkable swill for the masses, and also selling high-end, and very respectable wines for us wine aficionados.

Personally, I think it is the correct business structure to have for a growing winery. You need simple bulk wines that have high margins and can be sold anywhere and everywhere. Wines that people buy in the millions, literally. Then you need wines that bolster the lineup, entry-level wine-drinker wines, that can be the bridge to take you from swill to paradise. Think white zinfandel from Herzog Wine Cellars, they sell those bottles by the millions and they are the perfect gateway drug to get you to Chenin Blanc and then maybe to Chardonnay or Black Muscat, and finally to some real dry red wines.

Today the winery we are looking at is the Teperberg winery which was founded in 1870 by the Teperberg family (from where the name of the winery is derived) in the Old City of Jerusalem. Actually, to be accurate it was located in an alleyway of the old city of Jerusalem, and may well have been the first winery in the modern era of Israel. Later in 1964, the winery moved outside of Jerusalem, to the then quiet suburb of Motza (now a thriving community), and took on the name Efrat. The winery, ignoring its many name changes, continues to mostly produce sacramental sweet wines, as that is what its main clientele are looking for. However, in the 1990s Efrat started to create dry red wines, and to be honest they were a disaster. I remember always passing up on them, even when in school, and buying Carmel dry or semi-sweet wines instead.

Starting in 2002, under the supervision of California-trained senior winemaker Shiki Rauchberger the winery began producing wines destined to appeal to a more sophisticated audience. They rebuilt the winery, from the ground up, to just outside of Kibbutz Tzora, with massive investment into its future, and it once again changed its name to Teperberg. It also added to the winemaking team, French-born, and trained Olivier Fratty. The new winery boasts all new modern equipment, a massive barrel room, and a lovely visitor center where people can come and see the facility and enjoy their wines.

Of the four million bottles sold, much of it is still sacramental in nature, however, more and more the very target audience for the winery is shifting beneath them. Life in Israel is improving, and so are the taste buds of its inhabitants. They are looking for more sophistication, and as such the winery is looking to expand its portfolio of wines and clientele.

At the Gotham event I had a chance to talk with Shiki and understand what his team is doing differently now and where it wants to be in the future. The winery now is sourcing its grapes from the Judean Hills, the Shiloh sub region, and the Shomron region. Ignoring the Efrat label, which has basically been relegated to the sacramental wines and dry wines that are not noteworthy, the winery still has many labels but the only ones of note are the; Reserve, Terra and Silver series. All wines are made mevushal, except for the Reserve and Terra. Soon more expansive and better quality vineyards will be coming on-line with even more varieties and with far better yield and quality control.

For the most part, the reserve series of wines are oak aged for 18 months, the terra series are oak aged for 12 months, and the Silver series (which is also mevushal) is oak aged for 6 months. Clearly not all the wines that we tasted at the Gotham Event, where Shiki was leading the initial part of the VIP tasting, or the wines I tasted at Sommelier, last year, are top-notch. Still the wines are clearly improving and they are making a clear and steady climb upwards, towards consistency and higher quality.

The wine notes here are from wines I tasted at Sommelier and the Gotham wine tasting:

2010 Teperberg Brut – Score: B+
This is the first sparkling wine from Teperberg, and their first attempt is quite passable. The sparkler is made up of 90% Chardonnay and the other 10% is made from French Colombard. The Chardonnay adds the body, while the Colombard adds in the acidity that is natural to the varietal. The wine starts off effervescent in the glass, with fig notes, nice sweet floral attitude, along with light hints of yeast and toast. The mouth opens to small bubble mousse that is controlled and bright, along with peach and tart lemon acidity. The finish has a light hint of oak and more toast.

2009 Teperberg Malbec, Terra – Score: A-
This is the third year for this wine and it continues to get better, with the 2009 vintage being the best to date. The varietal has received much praise in Argentina and Chile, and makes sense to thrive in Israel, given the extreme heat that the area can receive at times. I have tasted and drunk this wine a few times now, and each time I continue to be impressed by it. The wine starts off with a blast of clear animal notes, followed by good mineral, bramble, plum, and raspberry. The mouth is round and full with medium+ weight, nice integrating tannin, blackberry, and controlled toasty oak that is now harmonious. The finish is long with good concentration of fruit, crushed herb, leafy tobacco, espresso coffee, and vanilla. A lovely wine that will be around till 2015 and maybe a bit later.

2010 Teperberg Cabernet Franc, Reserve – Score: A-
I do have a soft spot for Cabernet Franc, and I have tasted through quite a many of them, and this is a fine example of what the varietal is capable of. The wine is still in barrel, and was transported from Israel in a bottle of course, so the wine was decanted to allow it to show its best, and because of its obvious youth. The wine will continue to age in oak for a few more months, until it reaches its 18 month birthday, after that it will be bottled and let rest for a few more months till it goes on sale. The grapes for this wine are sourced from vineyards near Shiloh. The wine starts off with classic Cabernet Franc green notes of asparagus and broccoli, followed by nice violet, and plum. The mouth is controlled with clear restraint applied to both the oak and the body, allowing for a true expression of the varietal, instead of having Cabernet Franc in Cabernet Sauvignon’s clothing. The mouth continues with nice round mouth showing from controlled oak influence, along with nice mouth coating tannin, and sweet cedar whose components have yet to all settle down, but are well on their way. The finish is long with lovely chocolate, good mineral notes and tobacco.

2009 Teperberg Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – Score: B+ to A-
This was another wine that Shiki decanted and was still tight at the tasting. The wine is lovely and shows ability but one for now that clearly needs time. The wine aged in oak for 18 months opens slowly to show almost classic Cabernet characteristics, with ripe plum, graphite, bell pepper, and blackberry. The mouth is full and round with a heavy body of cassis, mouth coating tannin, and clear oak influence that is still far from all coming together. The finish is long and spicy, with nice cedar, mineral, tobacco, and chocolate. Give this one some time and it will show in a more pleasing manner.

2007 Teperberg Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – Score: A-
This is a lovely wine and may well be the best wine, in bottle, from Teperberg to date. The nose is rich and redolent with ripe blackberry, cassis, black plum, graphite, and lovely green notes. The mouth on this broad-shouldered and full bodied wine, is far richer and more concentrated than the 2009 vintage, with good fruit focus, nice toasty cedar, and mouth coating tannin that are all coming together nicely and showing extremely well. The finish is long and spicy, with vanilla, chocolate, and tobacco. This is a wine that is beautiful right now and one that can be enjoyed till 2015 or a bit more.

2009 Teperberg Blend, Reserve – Score: B+ to A-
Of the two unique blends from the 2009 vintage this one is a level below the premium blend. This blend is only sold in magnum bottles and is a lovely blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Shiraz, and 10% Petite Verdot. This is another example of Israel’s new theme of making blends that do not exist anywhere else in the world. These blends are not French, Italian, or American in any manner. Rather this blend is very Israeli in nature and in practice. It takes a unique growing climate to be able to have both the Cabernet and the Shiraz ripen at the same time and quality to create a blend like this. This wine is not yet available in store, in bottle, or even in name, as the final name has not yet been officially announced, for now it was called at the tasting – reserve blend. Its final name and label will be announced at a later date.

The nose starts off with lovely black plum, blackberry, raspberry, cherry, and mineral. The mouth on this wine is soft and plush with lovely mouth coating tannin, good cedar, and ripe fruit that fill out the mouth nicely. The finish has hints of animal, chocolate, tobacco, cedar, and citrus zest.

2009 Teperberg Blend, Premium – Score: A-
Of the two unique blends from the 2009 vintage this one is a notch above the reserve blend. Also, this blend is not an Israeli blend but rather a classic Bordeaux style blend. The blend is made up of only 6 barrels total, making for a very limited and assuredly expensive wine. The blend is a selection of only the very best barrels from the 2009 vintage. Three barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon, two barrels of Merlot, and one barrel of Petite Verdot, making for a rough blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 17% Petite Verdot (rounding up for simplicity). This wine is not yet available in store, in bottle, or even in name, as the final name has not yet been officially announced, for now it was called at the tasting – premium blend. Its final name and label will be announced at a later date.

The nose starts off with a classic Bordeaux style attack of black plum, lovely green notes, graphite, mineral, blackberry, and raspberry. The mouth medium in body, round and full with mouth coating tannin, nice mineral, lovely sweet cedar, and good focused fruit that seems to be in the front forever, all coming together into a layered and almost concentrated attack. The finish is long and lingers well with vanilla, chocolate, more sweet cedar, black pepper, spice, and herbs. This is a wine that is sure to please everyone and one that will be hard to find, but may well be worthy of the effort.

Teperberg Nevel Port Style – Score: B+
I must admit that sweet red wines are not my favorite thing, though when done correctly the are magical. This is NOT a port or a port style wine. This is a semi-sweet red wine that is oxidized and OK. Sorry, it is not even in the same league as the kosher Port from Royal. So what is this wine, it is a nice red dessert wine, though even with the oxidation and body, many a sweet food will run this over, and forget about a rich creamy mousse. This wine is made from Merlot grapes and aged outdoors using the angel’s technique. Interestingly enough, Tepperberg makes three sweet wines using a musical instrument theme. One is the nevel (harp) port, another is the kinnor (violin) which is a fortified dessert wine, and the third one is called Chalil (flute), which is a semi-sweet Cabernet Sauvignon. Thanks Yossi for the missing info!

The nose starts with heavy oxidation, ripe plum, candied fruit, dark cherry, chocolate, and pepper. The mouth is full with candied fruit that melds nicely with good tannin and nice vanilla. The finish lingers long with much the same.

2008 Teperberg Merlot, Terra (shmitta wine) – Score: B+
This is a shmitta wine, so please beware. The nose starts with crushed herb, date, black cherry, raspberry, along with an almost perfumed nose of cedar and plum. The mouth is almost full with mouth coating tannin, good spicy wood, and red fruit that brings the entire package together nicely. The finish is long with good minerality, vanilla, espresso coffee, and tobacco.

2009 Teperberg Meritage, Reserve – Score: B+ to A-
This is another classic Bordeaux blend with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and the rest filled out with Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. The nose starts with crushed herb, plum, and black olive, followed by smokey aromas, blackberry, and cassis. The mouth is rich and spicy, with layered and concentrated black fruit, along with not yet integrated tannin, and blackcurrant that come together into a mouthfeel that is slowly coming together. The finish is long and spicy with a distinct salty feel of black olives, light leather, and tobacco.

2009 Teperberg Shiraz, Reserve – Score: A-
This is Teperberg’s first Shiraz in the reserve series label and the outcome is quite lovely and rich. The nose is massive and almost assaulting with mounds of black pepper, blueberry, blackberry, smokey wood, and plum. The mouth is full with mouth coating tannin, ripe but not over the top fruit, and good wood that creates a lovely mouthfeel. The finish is long and spicy with bramble, tobacco, leather, garrigue, and vanilla. Quite a nice job and one that you can enjoy till 2016.

Posted on March 15, 2012, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Dessert Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Nice write up and notes. Agreed that they are on the way up on have a ways to go. The missing sweet wine is Chalil (flute) and it is a semi-sweet Cabernet Sauvignon. I’d give the Nevel a second chance as your bottle must have been off or suffering from bottle or travel shock since I tasted it in Israel at IsraWinExpo and it was really nice. I also enjoyed the sparkler less than you did. They also have two nice 2011 whites – a SB and Gewurz.

  2. Very cool. I will add the Chalil (flute) to the article. I liked the sparkler but it was plain. The Nevel was OK, but it was not a classically rich and mouth filling port style wine. This was more a semi-sweet wine with nice body, but not one that could keep up with most heavily sweet desserts – I guess it is my 2 cents, and will look to try some again soon.


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