Wine Talk: Rise of the phoenix
LAST UPDATED: 09/07/2011 09:36
Israel’s wineries have a history of reinventing themselves. Many of them are making the best wines since they were founded.
Carmel winery, Rishon Le’Zion Photo: Courtesy
If the 1980s heralded the beginning of the quality revolution in Israeli wine
and the 1990s the development of boutique wineries, then the first decade of the
2000s has witnessed the revival of the historic and traditional wineries of
Israel. The Carmel, Teperberg, Binyamina, Segal and Zion wineries have responded
to the industry’s advances by rejuvenating themselves. These famous wineries,
part of the history of Israel, are today, without exception, making the best
wines since they were founded.
The Carmel Winery has made
notable advances. Founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, this was
Israel’s first commercial winery. For 100 years Carmel kept the Israel wine
industry afloat, but the wines did not develop with the times. However, in the
past few years, a new management team at Carmel has changed both strategy and
New vineyards were planted, particularly in the Upper Galilee, a
new internationally trained winemaking team was employed, and new small stateof-
the-art wineries were built (Kayoumi and Yatir). Zichron Ya’acov Cellars was
totally refurbished. Carmel is still the largest winery in Israel, but
production was reduced and it was decided to concentrate on quality.
third-party international recognition of wines, such as Carmel Limited Edition,
Kayoumi Single Vineyards, the Appellation regional wines and Yatir, show how far
Carmel has come. These achievements confirm that Carmel has undergone a complete
The Efrat Winery was founded in 1870 in the
Old City of Jerusalem by Rabbi Avrom Teperberg. The family, who learned to make
wine in Hungary, had been beverage distributors since 1852.
For most of
its existence, the winery was known for producing strictly kosher wines of every
type for a religious market.
The company, though the fourth largest in
Israel, was mainly known for its strength in the Jerusalem area and for its
Badatz Eda Haredit kashrut certification.
However, in the last few years,
Efrat has changed direction.
It took on internationally trained
winemakers and built a new winery at Tzora. The winery was renamed Teperberg
1870, emphasizing the family name and longevity. It is Israel’s largest
The winery has launched new wines that have received
good reviews, particularly the Teperberg Reserve and Terra labels. The new
presentation and the quality of the wines indicate a winery for which perception
of quality has now become important.
In 1952 Yosef
Zeltser from Hungary decided to open a winery named Eliaz in memory of his son
Eliezer, who was killed in the 1948 War of Independence.
The site of the
winery had originally been opened by the Rothschild family as a perfume factory
In the 1970s, Eliaz was the second-largest winery in Israel, but
the focus was almost exclusively on basic wines. The winery, which has been
through a few owners and was renamed Binyamina, was purchased two years ago by
the supermarket chain Hetzi Hinam. The company has made large investments to
refurbish the old winery.
The winery systematically changed the whole
marketing image by relaunching each label in turn. Its top wines, which include
The Chosen, Binyamina Reserve and a boutique wine called The Cave, have shown
that this winery has not only turned a corner but that each vintage is also
Another brand that has undergone a revival is
The Segal family, who were distillers in White Russia,
Tel Aviv in 1925. They founded Askalon Wines in 1950, which was later
renamed Segal’s (Shel Segal). The wines were known for innovative
labels, and their Ben
Ami and Segal’s red wines were at the time regarded among the best in
country. However, there was a distinct decline in quality in the
in 2001 the brand was bought out by Barkan, the country’s secondlargest
Now Segal’s is marketed independently, even though the wine is
made in Kibbutz Hulda at the Barkan Winery. Segal’s Single Vineyard wines and
Segal Unfiltered are two of the best Israeli wines.
Zion The trend
continues. Now the eighth generation of the Shor family, which owns the Zion
Winery in Mishor Adumim, is starting to produce quality table wines, after 160
years of producing kiddush wine and grape juice. The Zion Winery recently
launched two new boutique wines called 1848, in memory of the Shor Winery that
was founded in 1848 in the Old City. This was Israel’s first recorded
Quality is the new name of the game, and in the competitive wine
industry of today wineries have no alternative but to sink or swim.
the Carmel Mizrahi, Eliaz, Efrat, Askalon and Shor of yesteryear have been
reborn as the Carmel Winery, Binyamina, Teperberg, Segal and Zion-1848 of today.
This is important because their names are a reminder that the modern Israeli
wine industry did not begin in the 1980s.
Yet the advances these wineries
have made in the 2000s have shown that it is not only the new and boutique
wineries that can produce highquality wine.
Adam Montefiore works for the Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in
Israeli and international publications.