As Israel celebrates its 63rd Independence Day, I have decided to look
back and select a couple of wines which symbolized each period.1948-1960
This is a difficult choice. If I had to choose a wine to be
representative of this period, it would have to be a sweet wine, which
is what people drank then. My choice would be Alicante, a sweet red
wine, and Stock 84 brandy to remind us of the days when Israelis were
Adom Atik and Carmel Hock were the
biggest-selling Israeli table wines in the 1960s. Adom Atik, a red wine,
was the biggest-selling table wine in export markets, sometimes
exporting surprising quantities to the nonkosher market, in particular
Hock was the semi-dry white wine Israelis used to
drink as a spritzer – adding soda water. Once these two wines symbolized
Israeli wine. The wine revolution has left them way behind, but
historically they are of interest because they have been available
throughout Israel’s 63 years.1970-1980
The wine of this decade
was Carmel Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1976. This was Israel’s
first serious wine, aged in barrel and bottle like a quality
international class wine. It was also labeled as a varietal – given the
name of the main grape variety. In the coming years more and more
Israeli wines would follow this “new world” trend.
The biggest-selling wine during this period was Grenache Rosé as Israeli consumers started to move from sweet to semi-dry wines.1980-1990
The award here goes to Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 1984. It was the first
Israeli wine to win a truly major international award. It won the Gold
Medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London in
1987. It also won the Winiarski Trophy for the best wine in the
This wine heralded the advance of the Golan Heights
Winery, which brought the “new world” technological revolution to
Israel, setting new standards for Israeli wine.
biggest-selling wine during this period was the Selected Emerald
Riesling, which satisfied new demands for an easy-to-drink, semi-dry
white wine, that introduced more Israelis to the enjoyment of wine than
The 1990s signaled the boutique wine
revolution. The first serious boutique winery, and arguably the best,
was Margalit Winery, owned by chemistry professor Dr. Yair Margalit. His
most memorable wine was the Margalit Cabernet Sauvignon 1993, which
symbolized the advance of the small boutique winery. Over 15 years later
it was still superb. It showed that a small non-kosher winery could be
amongst the finest in Israel.
other wine of the period was Yarden Mount Hermon Red, which became the
largest-selling red wine in a decade when Israelis changed from white to
My choice of the wine of the 2000s would have to be Yatir Forest 2003.
wine scored 93 points in the first tasting conducted by Robert Parker’s
Wine Advocate. At the time, no other wine from the Eastern
Mediterranean region had achieved this and it also equaled the best
score ever awarded for a kosher wine by the Wine Advocate.
tasting was a watershed for Israeli wine desperate to shed its kosher
image and to be regarded as a quality wine producing country in its own
The new popular product of the 21st century is Moscato,
made from Muscat grapes in the style of the Italian Moscato d’Asti. The
leading brands are Golan Moscato and Young Selected Moscato. These
remind us that wine is meant to be fun, to be enjoyed any place and any
If I had to pick one key year out of the 63, it would be
1976. This was the year the Carmel Special Reserve was produced and the
year vineyards were first planted on the Golan Heights.
The Israeli wine revolution started from then onwards.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery, and regularly writes about wine for both international and Israeli publications.