By Al Vuona
| Telegram & Gazette
Wine-making in Israel has been going on since biblical times and yet the region doesn’t receive much in the way of attention. Israeli wine production is carried on by hundreds of wineries, ranging from small boutique enterprises to large high-volume producers. All of which translates into roughly 10 million bottles per year. So as you can see, the country does indeed have a vibrant wine culture.
Many of these wines are designated as kosher and must meet specific requirements that are carried out during the wine-making process. Here are the primary guidelines.
•A Sabbath-observing Jew must handle the entire process.
•Each and every ingredient added, whether in filtration or clarification during the vinification process, must be kosher.
•All tools and equipment must be dedicated to kosher winemaking alone.
Aside from this, wine-making for both kosher and non-kosher are very similar.
Today, much of Israel’s wine-making takes place in five vine-growing regions with Galilee, including the Golan Heights being perhaps the most important. Galilee is marked by its high elevation, cool breezes, day and night temperature changes and rich, well-drained soils. All if which is beneficial to growing grapes and making wine.
Among the many wineries there, Carmel, which dates back to 1882, is considered the largest in terms of production. In fact three wines, the 2018 Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018 Private Cellar Cabernet and the 2019 Selection Cabernet, were featured at a recent tasting I attended.
We started off with the Carmel 2019 Selection Cabernet, which is a delightful medium-bodied red. Aromas of blackcurrant and berry fruits are nicely integrated with rich flavors and a hint of spice on the finish. At a suggested retail price of $12, you just can’t go wrong. $11
Next up, the 2018 Carmel Private Cellar Cabernet is vibrant with aromas of blackberry and chocolate truffle. The bold dark fruit flavors are accompanied by subtle oak and a lengthy finish. $15
We concluded the event with the 2018 Carmel, Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a really nice wine that features a deep purple color with blackberry aromas, cassis and eucalyptus. Full-bodied with a long, well-balanced finish. I was most impressed by this wine. $24
My first exposure to the wines of Israel began in 1988 when my friend and mentor, former Worcester wine guru Julian Schultz, treated me to a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon he had brought back from a trip to the Middle East. I remember commenting that it tasted much like any other red wine. To which he replied, “My boy, you have a lot to learn about wine.”
He then pointed out that wine, regardless of where it was made, is dependent on climate and growing conditions as well as the person making the wine. Taken together, these factors, subtle as they may be, often distinguish one wine from another, thus giving each its own unique personality. Time and again those words ring true.
Today, I am still a big fan of Israeli wines and often look forward to uncorking a bottle. After all, expanding one’s wine horizons by exploring new regions of the world is what wine appreciation is all about.
You can often find Israeli wines locally so pick up a bottle or two. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. L’chaim!
Wine of the week: Chateau Pesquie, 2018 Terrasses Rouge, France. From the Rhone region, this delightful red boasts intense aromas of berries and spice. Well balanced with smooth tannins and plush red fruit flavors along with hints of floral on the persistent finish. $17