(photo credit: Aaron Hecht)
The Emerald Riesling grape first appeared in 1948, a very important year, which
coincided with the birth of the State of Israel. It was therefore perhaps a
foregone conclusion that it would go on to feature in a significant way in
Emerald Riesling was a cross of a fairly ordinary, boring grape
variety with a great one. Prof. H.P. Olmo of the University of California at
Davis produced the cleverly named Emerald Riesling from the Muscadelle and
Riesling grapes. The idea was to replicate some of the characteristics of the
cool-climate Riesling in a new variety that would give better yields and be more
suitable in a warmer climate.
It was originally planted in California
with its partner red, a vine called Ruby Cabernet, which also saw the light of
day in 1948. This was a cross between Carignan and Cabernet
Sauvignon. The Carignan was very productive, and the Cabernet Sauvignon
more full of character. The combination of the two was an attempt to
upgrade the Carignan, which was then considered a workhorse grape for
inexpensive, high-volume blends.
In California, it was the Ruby Cabernet
that proved more popular than Emerald Riesling, though neither could be
described as successful.
In the 1970s they made aliya together, brought
here by the Israeli Wine Institute. The Ruby Cabernet is still planted here but
scarcely made any impression.
On the other hand, Emerald Riesling became
a big hit, becoming Israel’s most popular wine.
In Israel of the 1960s,
most of the wine drunk was sweetish. The two largest selling table wines were
Carmel Hock, a medium-dry to medium-sweet white wine, and Adom Atik, an off-dry
red wine. In the 1970s these wines were superseded by the delicately colored
Grenache Rosé. During those years, Israelis started a move towards preferring to
drink white wines. By the mid 1980s, 75 percent of the wine sales were
whites, and the largest-selling wine by a long shot was the Selected Emerald
Riesling. Until the late 1990s, Emerald Riesling was king of the Israeli
In the 2000s, red wines asserted themselves, and there has
been an absolute turnaround. Some 70% of the sales are now red
wines. “Selected” is still the most popular-selling brand, but the
largest-selling wines are Yarden Mount Hermon Red, Selected Merlot and Selected
Cabernet Sauvignon. All are red wines. Emerald Riesling is a declining
Most of the Emerald Riesling vineyards are planted in the southern
Mount Carmel region or in the Central Coastal Plain. The resulting Emerald
Riesling is a semi-dry wine, very aromatic, though less so than a Muscat or
Gewurztraminer. It has a blowzy, flowery character and a slightly spicy finish.
It is the perfect wine to go with Chinese food and is a great aperitif. In its heyday, it was most popular as a
wine for all those who found dry wines too acidic. Many new wine drinkers
arrived in the world of wine via Emerald Riesling. It performed the same
job in Israel that Lambrusco and Liebfraumilch did in the US and the UK,
The humble Emerald Riesling should not be confused with the
noble Riesling variety, which produces world-famous wines in Germany, Austria and
Alsace. The quality Riesling may be known as White Riesling in America, Rhine
Riesling in Australia, Johannisberg Riesling in Israel or as just plain Riesling
in Europe. The real Riesling is one of the greatest white wines grapes, which
produces wines that are more delicate and more sophisticated than
However, Emerald Riesling is still available and remains
popular. It is true that Gewurztraminer has become the new “in” semi-dry wine
for those wanting a quality upgrade, but Emerald Riesling is still the leading
semi-dry white wine sold in Israel. Israel does not have its own
indigenous varieties and Emerald Riesling, though brought here from California,
may be said to have succeeded in only one country and that is Israel!Choice Wines:ENTRY LEVEL – under NIS 25.Selected Emerald Riesling 2010
“original.”Semi-dry, very aromatic with a flowery aroma. Full flavored
and slightly spicy.Tishbi French Riesling 2010
A fragrant, fruity blend
of Emerald Riesling with French Colombard. Refreshing.Classic
Emerald Riesling 2010
Notes of citrus, pineapple, a pleasant sweetness and
refreshing finish.BEST VALUE – under NIS 50
Collection Emerald Riesling 2010
A modern style. Aromatic and off dry.
Delicate sweetness but with very good balancing acidity.Barkan Reserve
Emerald Riesling 2010
Attractive fruity aroma with a clean, refreshing finish.
Perfect accompaniment for Asian cuisine.Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about Israeli wine
for Israeli and international publications. email@example.com
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