Israeli Kosher Wine Comes of Age

November 23, 2012 11:33 am 3 comments

Wine at the Carmel Winery in Israel's Mt. Carmel area. Photo: Lisë Stern.

Wine is an integral part of Judaism, a part of every holiday meal. Wine and vineyards are referred to numerous times in the bible, and many ancient wine presses have been found throughout Israel. But Israel has only recently come into its own as a producer of quality wine, notably quality wine that happens to be kosher.

The Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute (IEICI) refers to four periods of wine revolutions in Israel. The first was in the late 1800s, when Baron Edmond de Rothschild started the Carmel Winery in Rishon Le Zion and Zichron Yaakov. The second revolution, a century later, was when the Golan Heights Winery came on the scene; the late Daniel Rogov, preeminent Israeli wine critic, wrote in The Ultimate Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines that this winery is “largely responsible for placing Israel on the world wine map.” A few other wineries followed in the 1990s (the third revolution), slowly building Israel’s reputation as a wine-producing country, winning awards and accolades.

In the last seven years, the industry has skyrocketed, with over 250 wineries, some 70 of which are kosher. The IEICI refers to this period as the fourth revolution. Rogov’s first Israeli wine guidebook was published in 2005; in 2006 the first wine show was held in Israel, Israwinexpo, now a biannual event; famed wine critics Robert Parker and Hugh Johnson began to include Israel in their annual wine guides in 2007; and the number of boutique and “garagiste” wineries grew, while established wineries began producing higher-caliber wines.

As winemakers transition from hobbyists producing wine for family and friends to professional producers, they lean toward going kosher. In order to be carried in Israeli supermarkets (where most wines are sold), they need to be kosher, and kosher wines are also more easily exported.

Yossie Horwitz, who reviews kosher wines for the Yossie’s Corkboard blog, says “Within the Jewish community, the Orthodox interest and sophistication has grown exponentially both culinary and in wine, with more people taking more of interest in drinking high-quality wine.

“Israeli wineries have risen to that occasion,” he says.

“There’s been a huge jump in the last five years,” agrees Jonathan Livny, who writes on wine for Yedioth Ahronoth and blogs. “Israeli wines have shown the world that you can be kosher and still have wonderful wines.”

This October, during grape harvest season in the middle of Sukkot, I visited several kosher wineries in Israel. These are just a handful of the notable wineries, and you can easily create a winery-based itinerary through the country. Tours are available at each and costs range from about $5 to $20, including tastings. Most require advance reservations.

Carmel Winery

Mt. Carmel Area

Carmel is the oldest and largest winery in Israel, producing 15 million bottles a year. They own other wineries as well, including the lauded Yatir, at the northern edge of the Negev. For decades, they made primarily syrupy kiddush wine, then became part of the fourth wave in the wine revolution when they began producing a line of top notch wines in 2003. Wines to try: Private Collection 2011 Viognier, Appellation Carignan Old Vines 2008; Yatir 2008 “Mashak” (Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon blend); Gewürztraminer (a perfect dessert wine).

Golan Heights Winery

Golan Heights

This is where the modern Israeli wine scene began—the second wine revolution, in which eight kibbutzim and moshavim joined forces to create one excellent winery. There are wines in all price ranges here, starting with Golan, then Gamla, and the top Yarden label. The facility is huge and impressive, producing 6 million bottles a year; the first vintage was in 1983. Try Yarden Galilee HeightsWine (an ice wine, made from Gewürztraminer grapes); Yarden 2T (made from two types of Portuguese grapes, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao); Yarden Syrah.

Antique Safed Winery

Upper Galilee

Moshe Alon has been making wine since 1996; in 2004 he moved to this location in Old Safed. His brother Paul is the owner, and his wife Karen works in the winery as well—literally a Mom & Pop operation, across the path from their house, with some of their seven children popping in periodically. Try the Gewürztraminer 2009 and the rich garnet colored Cabernet Sauvignon 2011.

Dalton Winery

Upper Galilee

Founded in 1995 by Mat Haruni and his son Alex, English immigrants. It’s located in an industrial complex near the Lebanese border. Moshe Haviv came on as CEO eight years ago to grow the company, which now produces 1 million bottles a year. “I want to make the best wine in the world,” Haviv declares, and they’re certain on the right track. Try Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Reserve; Alma Blend 2009 (with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc), and Shiraz Reserve 2009 (a gold medal winner).

Galil Mountain Winery

Upper Galilee

Located at Kibbutz Yiron near the Lebanese Border, Galil Mountain is a joint venture between the kibbutz and Golan Heights Winery. Six local vineyards supply grapes to the winery, which has sleek architecture and a state-of-the art feel The goal, when they began in 2000, was to be big, producing at least a million bottles a year of quality affordable wines. Try Galil 2011 Viognier; Galil Rosé; Galil Barbera 2010, and Yiron 2009 (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot).

Rimon Winery

Upper Galilee

Rimon Winery is a novelty—but worth a visit. Wine critics comment that, since the “wine” is made from pomegranates, it is really a liqueur, not a wine. It’s located in the same complex as Dalton and a few other wineries. They make both dry and sweeter wines. Most popular is the Port-Style Wine, a rich, sophisticated after-dinner drink.

Domaine du Castel

Judean Hills

Castel was one of the first third-revolution wineries, started in 1992 by Eli Ben Zaken, a native of Alexandria who made aliyah in the 1970s. This is one of the higher-end wineries in Israel. They make three wines (plus a rosé, which tends to sell out every year): C Blanc de Castel, Castel Grand Vin, and Petit Castel.

Flam Winery

Judean Hills

Brothers Golan and Gilad Flam started this winery at the end of the third wave, in 1998, aided by their father Israel, who had been a winemaker at Carmel Winery for 35 years; their mother Kami is also part of the business. They now make 100,000 bottles a year, with six wines in their repertoire. Try Flam Blanc 2011 (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay); Flam Classico 2010 (Merlot, Cabernet Suavignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot); and a beautiful Syrah Reserve 2010.

Tzora Vineyards

Judean Hills

Part of the third wave of wineries in Israel, Tzora is located on the kibbutz of the same name, but independently owned. The current owners, including general manager Uri Ran, have been continuing to create excellent wines since 2008. Try Neve Ilan Blanc 2011 and Misty Hills 2009 (a Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend).

Kadesh Barnea Winery

Negev

Located on Moshave Barnea, in view of the Egyptian border in the Western Negev, Kadesh Barnea was founded in 2000 by Alon and Nira Zadock. Son Yogev and his wife Eden both studied oenology in Florence, and Yogev is now the winemaker. Their wines, made with Negev-grown grapes, are promoted as Wines from the Desert. Try the Merlot and the Cabernet Sauvignon.

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Sports US & Canada Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    JNS.org – An organization whose work focuses on the estimated population of 500,000-800,000 Israeli Americans congratulated David Blatt, the Jewish head coach of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and a longtime Israel-based coach, for clinching an appearance in the NBA Finals. The Israeli-American Council (IAC), whose stated mission is “to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to [...]

    Read more →
  • Food US & Canada Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Famed ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s will not be introducing a Bacon flavored product to its offerings because the company intends to keep its entire line kosher, Marketing Director Alison Gilbert told AOL’s morning show Rise recently. “It’s kind of funny, a lot of people look for bacon in our ice cream, which is probably not gonna happen because all of our ice cream is kosher,” she said, referring to Jewish dietary restrictions that proscribe the consumption of pig [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli athletes at a world Judo championship in Morocco reportedly faced antisemitic slurs during the competition, news site WorldNetDaily reported on Monday. “We will murder you,” and “you’re not wanted here, go home,” were among the vituperative attacks directed at the Israeli Judo Association team, which was in Morocco last week for the World Masters Judo Tournament. According to Haaretz, each Israeli teammate was met with boos and jeers upon entering a fight. Additionally, no Israeli flags were present at [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.