The United States is Israel’s largest export market for wines, with more
than 50 percent of all Israel’s exports going there. It is also the
country with the largest potential for Israeli wine. The US has
something like 5.5 million Jews, and there are more than half a million
Israelis living in America.
Until now, Israeli wineries have not
worked together to advance the Israel wine brand, apart from the
pioneering Handcrafted Wines of Israel. This consortium of 10 wineries
was set up and managed by Carmel in the early 2000s. This was the first
time Israeli wineries worked together.
Now Royal Wine Corp., of
New Jersey, has set up the Israel Wine Producers Association (IWPA) to
market Israeli wines in America. Royal Wine is owned by the Herzog
family. It owns the Herzog Wine Cellars in California and Kedem Winery
in Upstate New York and is the largest importers of kosher wine in the
world. More significantly, it is the largest importer of wine, spirits
and food from Israel and the largest distributors of Israeli wine in the
New York and New Jersey area.
The IWPA includes 15 Israeli
wineries, from large to small and old to new. They represent a cross
section of Israel’s wine industry, covering every possible angle of
The group includes some of the largest wineries in
Israel, such as Carmel Winery, Barkan-Segal and Binyamina. Carmel is the
largest winery in Israel and the largest winery in the world that
produces kosher wine. Barkan is the second-largest winery in Israel and
is owned by Israel’s largest brewery, Tempo Beer Industries. Binyamina
is Israel’s fifth-largest winery and is owned by the Hetzi Hinam
supermarket chain. The three wineries together make up a fair slice of
the local wine market.
Some of the IWPA wineries are an integral
part of the history of Israeli wine. The Shor family opened the first
recorded winery in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1848. Today, the ninth
generation of the family owns and manages Zion Winery. Carmel was
founded in 1882 by the Rothschilds, who owned the famous Chateau Lafite
in Bordeaux, France. Carmel was Israel’s first commercial winery. Segal
and Binyamina were founded in the 1950s after the establishment of the
State of Israel. The Segals were distillers from White Russia, and
Binyamina was founded by Joseph Seltzer, an immigrant from Hungary.
IWPA also includes some of Israel’s finest small wineries, such as
Castel, Yatir and Flam. They are regarded as being part of the elite and
among Israel’s finest boutique wineries. The list also contains some of
Israel’s newer, younger wineries. For instance, Alexander and Bazelet
Hagolan, which were founded in the 1990s. This was the period the
boutique winery boom began in Israel. Psagot, Tzuba and Shiloh were
founded in the 2000s, and Domaine Netofa was founded as recently as
2009. Behind each winery is an owner, who is also likely to be the
winemaker, making wine with commitment and passion.
in this consortium cover the map of Israel from the Golan Heights to the
Negev. There are representatives from all the main wine-growing
regions, including the Golan Heights, Upper Galilee, Mount Carmel, the
Judean Plain, the Judean Hills, the Samaria Hills and the Negev.
the Golan, the main pests are the wild boars, which love to gorge on
the sweet, ripe grapes. In the Negev, roaming camels treat vines like
salad, virtually eating them down to their roots. Whatever the stories
of place or people, the selected wineries that form the IWPA are from a
wide enough spectrum to cover them all.
The current success of
generic wine bodies such as Wines of Turkey and Wines of Lebanon in the
UK illustrates how the formation of this consortium is overdue. The IWPA
will now be able to market the color, variety and flavor of the Israeli
wine scene. They have understood that what I refer to as “Brand Israel”
is no less important than the labels of the wineries themselves.
is a New World country in one of the most ancient wine-growing
regions.It is situated in the Eastern Mediterranean, the cradle of the
grape, where wine culture began. Before the Greeks and the Romans of
ancient times, and well before the Italians and French of today, the
inhabitants were making wines in ancient Israel.
started in the 1880s due to the finance and vision of a Rothschild. The
beginnings were built on the foundations of French expertise. The
quality revolution began in the 1980s with the importation of New World
technology from California. It continued until the 2000s when Israel
began to gain the third-party recognition it deserved from the world’s
most famous wine critics. The result is that Israel today is one of the
newest of the quality wine-producing countries. Now, for the first time,
the high quality matches the rich history. The IWPA provides a platform
to showcase the best of Israel.
Wine of the week:
Cave 2008 is a Bordeaux style blend made from 65 percent Cabernet
Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged for 24
months in French oak barrels in a cave in the Carmel Mountains. The wine
is full-bodied, rich, full of ripe berry notes, sweet vanilla and a
backdrop of tobacco and coffee. It is an impressive wine that comes in
an impressive bottle, which feels as heavy as a magnum.
The Cave is the boutique winery that belongs to Binyamina, one of Israel’s largest wineries.
Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in
Israeli and international publications.