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State of the Israeli Wine Industry and shmita 2015 was not a vintage to remember

somm2Sorry for the pause in posts – but I was traveling to Israel and now that I am back I hope to keep the posting back to a regular weekly rate. I travelled to Israel for this year’s sommelier – a wine event held in Israel that is normally attended by many of the upcoming and established wineries in Israel and abroad. I also went all around the country to more than 10 wineries and it helped me to get a very good feel for where the kosher Israel wine industry is now and where it is moving to in the next few years – wine wise anyway.

Sommelier

The event was originally marketed towards smaller and mid-sized wineries and distributors for restaurants, wine shops, and hotels to come and see the wineries that are scattered all over Israel in one place! Over time the event has ebbed and flowed and is now more of an event for smaller wineries to really spend their marketing dollars to garner the biggest bang for their buck. My personal fear is that in the coming years, this will fade, and start to get segregated much like it is in the USA. There are already many city oriented wine events, like the Judean Hills wine event and the Binyamina and Tel Aviv events. Add to that the famous Jerusalem wine event for kosher wines before Passover and I fear that things the Sommelier event will start to move away from a fairly well set of distributed and independent wineries to either a set of wineries run under a few select distributors (like HaKerem, Shaked, The Scottish Company, HaGafen) or worse – to a place where only a couple reign supreme. This will all play out – I fear – to the tune of follow the money. Still, the hope is that the need for small players and some medium ones as well to keep a good and well-lit profile – may mean that the event will stay safely away from the vertical plays going on in the USA.

With all that said, I was very impressed by the event overall this year. It was not over the top and almost drunken like last year, when Tabor was doing Mixology with their beautiful wines! Sadly, the wines were not as impressive as the event was overall. This year the event managers were smart enough to NOT lay down a temporary flooring – THANK GOD! For the past few years that temporary flooring reeked of glue and plastic and made smelling wine an almost impossibility around the winery stalls. It forced me to go to open areas smell the wine and come back and forth and so on until I was done tasting that winery’s wines. This year the lack os such “extra” flooring was a true god send!

Further – the wine event this year saw more kosher wineries than ever and the addition of kosher international wineries to boot! Elvi Wines was showing wines imported by Shaal Rubin, under a large heading of The House of International Kosher Wines. Another great example was Eli Gauthier’s Chianti – which was brought in by Mersch Premium Wines. Also, Bokobsa had a stall showing off some solid QPR wines, with only the Champagne, a Merlot based rose, and the Gigondas scoring high. Overall, ignoring the imports for a second, which is a lot of wine, the majority of the wineries at the event were kosher. Actually, the majority of the wineries, again ignoring imports for a second, were micro small to boutique sized wineries, most of them staffed by the winemaker or owner, kosher, and very passionate and personable folks. Of course there were a few mammoth kosher wineries at the show, including Binyamina. Read the rest of this entry

Sommelier 2015 results – White wines ruled along with a few reds

Sommelier 2015Sadly, Sommelier 2015 has come and gone and I can fairly state that I found nothing to be heartened about, in terms of the Israeli kosher wine scene. To be fair, the issue is still the same, wineries are deepening their love for all things over ripe and the excuse of poor vintages is really just that – an excuse. Having tasted almost every viable kosher wine at the event, I can safely say that only a few wineries care to make wines that are not over ripe, and the rest are the usual suspects. Before, anyone says there were many great wines, I can say I totally agree! The clear winners, winery wise were:
1.    Tzora Winery (the 2012 vintage is insane)
2.    Gvaot Winery (the 2012 Masada may well be their best ever)
3.    Recanati Winery (clearly the biggest winery with a desire to build very good wines from the bottom up)
4.    Tabor Winery (they continue to excel at the Adama series, though the Adama II wines have lost a step since 2010). Still, the whites, rose, and reds of Adama were impressive.
5.    Carmel Winery (the whites continue to excel and even the reds are solid, sadly the US labels are date juice)
6.    Yatir (nothing new here they are one of the best of the bunch)
7.    Yarden – SOLELY for the whites and bubbles. The reds were all date juice, the classic example of a winery that has purposely and consciously taken the road of over ripe fruit.
8.    Netofa Winery (the 2013 and 2014 wines will blow your socks off) – not listed here because I will post separately
9.    Mia Luce (Another winery made by a Recanati Associate Winemaker, this one being kosher) – maybe the best wines of the entire event
10.   Tura Winery (continues to push the boundaries and improving mightily. Love the Merlot, blends, and the new Gewurztraminer. Will post their wines on a separate post).

A few to keep track of – if they keep things up:
1.    Kishor Winery (some of their reds were truly impressive, their new whites were a step behind 2013)
2.    Jezreel Winery (Their white blend and the Carignan were nice, they need to tighten up the rest)
3.    Gush Eztion (Their whites were solid though they too need to tighten up on the reds)

Sadly, of the 200+ kosher wines at the event, fewer than 40 reds were anything to write about. It was the whites, even at wineries that I found physically painful to taste at, were quite acceptable. In the end it was the white wines that saved the event for me. White wines are the clear new trend in Israeli wineries and a trend that continues to impress. Sadly, the 2014 whites are step behind the 2013 vintages, as many did not add acid to the wines, but they are very solid none the less. Read the rest of this entry

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