(photo credit: OFER ZEMACH)
Carignan has been the backbone of the Israeli wine industry for nearly 130
years, being present since the 1880s. When the first tentative steps in
viticulture were taken in 1882 by a small number of farmers in the Rishon Lezion
area, they planted some local Arab varieties but also a grape they called
So the presence of Carignan in Israel preceded even the
involvement of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the founder of the modern Israel wine
However, when the Baron came on his first visit in 1887, he
insisted on concentrating more on Bordeaux varieties such as cabernet franc,
cabernet sauvignon and malbec.
This was the beginning of a debate that is
still going on today: Which are better for Israel, Bordeaux or Mediterranean
varieties? In the 1890s and into the first decade of the 20th century, the
Mediterranean varieties won the argument. Carignan returned to the fore and
became the mainstay of Israeli wine. By the 1970s Carignan even reached 55% of
all grapes planted in Israel.
Why was Carignan so popular? Firstly it was
ideal for Israel’s Mediterranean climate.
It was versatile and could be
used to make grape juice, sweet kiddush wines and dry red table wines, and
growers could get very high yields. Quality was not then an issue.
then, the country has gone through a well-documented quality revolution. The
Bordeaux varieties have returned, fulfilling the original vision of Baron Edmond
Today, the finest wine from most Israeli wineries is
either a Bordeaux-style blend or varietal cabernet sauvignon.
beginning of the 2000s, winemakers began to look differently at their productive
Carignan vineyards. Individual plots in old vineyards were identified and yields
were drastically reduced. The stage was set to produce some goodquality,
The pioneer in the revival of Carignan was Carmel. Of
the smaller wineries, Vitkin also gave a focus to this variety.
Carignan vine is considered to be most at home in the area around Zichron
Ya’acov, with vineyards planted in the bush style in the valleys of the southern
Mount Carmel. The wines now produced range from light, fruity, spicy Beaujolais
style to dark, impenetrable, full-bodied monsters.
Carignan has been here
so long it is almost Israeli. It may not be as grand as some of the more classic
varieties, but Israel is awash with cabernets and merlots. The curious wine
lover will be delighted to taste something different.
Twenty years ago,
Carignan on the label would signify the cheapest and worst wine in a winery’s
portfolio. Today an old-vine Carignan might just about be the most interesting
wine there is. If you have a guest looking for the authentic taste of Israel,
these are the wines to offer.ENTRY LEVEL
Up to NIS 40 Reches Red (Ridge)
A fruity, easy-drinking red from the Mount Carmel region made from 65%
Carignan and 35% Shiraz. Raspberry and cherries. Mouth-filling
Made from Carignan. Beaujolais- style wine
made from the last harvest. Young and juicy, fruity. Strawberry and bubble gum.
Serve chilled.BEST BUY
NIS 40 to NIS 70 Barkan Reserve Carignan
Full-bodied Carignan blended with a little cabernet franc. Gold medal winner in
France. Generous oaky notes and ripe fruit character give an impression of
sweetness.Sea Horse Gaudi
2008 (not kosher)
An innovative blend with
Carignan the dominant variety. Mediumbodied wine with red fruit notes, and a
spicy backdrop.BEST QPR (quality to price ratio)
NIS 70 to NIS 100
Carmel Appellation Carignan
An attractive berry fruit nose, a whiff of violets and a hint of Mediterranean herbs. Made from 40- year-old vines. Well
balanced, long finish. Heron on the label.Vitkin Carignan
Concentrated and quite powerful. Leading with plums and blackberries with
good tannins and smoky backdrop. Made in Kfar Vitkin by Vitkin
This is a good Carignan from a small
garagiste winery in Zichron Ya’acov. The wine is very oaky, full-bodied with a
good concentration of fruit.SPECIAL PURCHASE
Above NIS 100 Avidan Prio
2007 (not kosher)
Blend combining 40% Carignan, 30% Grenache with cabernet and
merlot. A nose of raspberries and cherries, with well integrated spicy notes.
Complex and interesting, but expensive and rare.
A delicate, feminine wine made mainly from Carignan, Shiraz and Petite
Sirah. Red fruit nose, with layers of complexity and silky tannins. A
connoisseur’s wine.Chillag Carignan
2007 (not kosher)
Not yet released,
but this will be a monster. Orna Chillag, who trained in Italy, is one of
Israel’s foremost women winemakers. Only a few hundred bottles made.Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and writes about wine in both Israeli
and international publications.[email protected]